Nitrogen and carbon cycling in a model longleaf pine community as affected by elevated atmospheric CO2

H. Allen Torbert
Stephen A. Prior
G. Brett Runion
Micheal A. Davis, University of Southern Mississippi


Increasing global atmospheric CO2 concentration has led to concerns regarding its potential effects on terrestrial ecosystem and the long-term storage of C and N in soil. This study examined responses to elevated CO2 in a typical regenerating longleaf pine-wiregrass community. The model community consisted of five plant species: (1) an evergreen conifer (Pinus palustris), (2) a bunch grass (Aristida stricta), (3) a broadleaf tree (Quercus margaretta), (4) a perennial herbaceous legume (Crotalaria rotundifolia), and (5) a herbaceous perennial (Asclepias tuberosa) grown at two CO2 concentrations (ambient and twice ambient). The CO2-enriched plots had greater aboveground biomass than ambient plots, mainly due to increased pine biomass. After 3 years, samples of the soil (Blanton loamy sand: loamy, siliceous, semiactive, thermic Grossarenic Paleudult) were collected from 0- to 5-, 5-to 10-, and 10-to 20-cm depth increments. Microbial respiration, potential C and N mineralization, and C turnover were measured during a 120-day incubation of the soil samples. Elevated CO2 decreased soil C respiration and C turnover, but increased N mineralization. Results indicate that soil C sequestration is likely for soils in this longleaf pine ecosystem.