Ecosystems exposed to elevated CO2 are often found to sequester more atmospheric carbon due to increased plant growth. We exposed a Danish heath ecosystem to elevated CO2, elevated temperature and extended summer drought alone and in all combinations in order to study whether the expected increased growth would be matched by an increase in root nutrient uptake of NH4+-N and NO3- -N. Root growth was significantly increased by elevated CO2. The roots, however, did not fully compensate for the higher growth with a similar increase in nitrogen uptake per unit of root mass. Hence the nitrogen concentration in roots was decreased in elevated CO2, whereas the biomass N pool was unchanged or even increased. The higher net root production in elevated CO2 might be a strategy for the plants to cope with increased nutrient demand leading to a long-term increase in N uptake on a whole-plant basis. Drought reduced grass root biomass and N uptake, especially when combined with warming, but CO2 was the most pronounced main factor effect. Several significant interactions of the treatments were found, which indicates that the responses were nonadditive and that changes to multiple environmental changes cannot be predicted from single-factor responses alone.
Functional Plant Biology, 2013, Vol 41, Issue 1, p. 1-10