U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Elevated CO2 Changes Plant Dynamics in a Forest Ecosystem
Published: March 15, 2010
Posted: March 24, 2010

DOE has developed and supported a number of long-term Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) studies to evaluate the response of entire ecosystems to increased CO2 associated with a changing climate. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has managed one of those sites for over 11 years and reports a set of findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Plant Ecology. Over the course of the experiment, the understory plant community changed dramatically. Above ground biomass was ~25% greater in plots exposed to elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide. Early in the study (2001-2003), herbaceous species made up 94% of the total understory biomass. After multiple years of treatments (2008), woody shrubs and saplings comprised 39% of total understory biomass in plots not receiving additional CO2 treatments and 67% in plots receiving elevated CO2 treatments. Understory communities in plots receiving elevated CO2 treatments also showed more rapid transition from herbaceous to woody-dominated communities, indicating faster succession. These results suggest that rising atmospheric CO2 concentration could accelerate ecosystem succession and have long-term impacts on forest dynamics.

References: Souza L, Belote RT, Kardol P, Weltzin JF, Norby RJ (2010) "CO2 enrichment accelerates successional development of an understory plant community," Journal of Plant Ecology 3(1): 33-39.

Contact: Mike Kuperberg, SC-23.1, (301) 903-3281
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE)

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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