Letter | Published:

Boreal forest biomass accumulation is not increased by two decades of soil warming

Nature Climate Changevolume 9pages4952 (2019) | Download Citation

Abstract

Increased soil organic matter decomposition with increasing temperature has been hypothesized to enhance soil nitrogen availability, consequently stimulating forest biomass production and offsetting decomposition-induced soil carbon losses1,2,3,4,5. This projection, however, is based on evidence gathered from short-term studies (≤10 years)2,3,5. The key question for carbon sequestration is whether such responses are transient or persist over long forest rotation periods. Here we report on biomass production in a typical nitrogen-limited boreal Picea abies forest, exposed to 18 years of soil warming manipulation (+5 °C) at a plot scale (100 m2). We show that two decades of soil warming elicited only short-duration growth responses, thus not significantly increasing aboveground biomass accumulation. Furthermore, in combination with published work from this forest, our results suggest that increased decomposition is slight and ephemeral, and increased fine root production and turnover in deeper soil may be greater than increased decomposition, netting slightly more biomass, perhaps conserving the soil carbon stock. Thus, this long-term study does not support the notion that the projected increase in soil temperatures will cause either an increased carbon loss with decomposition or a compensatory growth increase from nitrogen mineralization.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Change history

  • 23 January 2019

    In the version of the Supplementary Information file originally published with this Letter, ref. 42 — Andersson, P., Berggren, D. & Nilsson, I. Indices for nitrogen status and nitrate leaching from Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) stands in Sweden. For. Ecol. Manag. 157, 39–53 (2002) — should have appeared as a footnote to Supplementary Table 2; this has now been added.

References

  1. 1.

    Melillo, J. et al. Global climate change and terrestrial net primary production. Nature 363, 234–240 (1993).

  2. 2.

    Jarvis, P. G. & Linder, S. Constraints to growth of boreal forests. Nature 405, 904–905 (2000).

  3. 3.

    Strömgren, M. & Linder, S. Effects of nutrition and soil warming on stemwood production in a boreal Norway spruce stand. Global Change Biol. 8, 1194–1204 (2002).

  4. 4.

    Melillo, J. et al. Soil warming and carbon-cycle feedbacks to the climate system. Science 298, 2173–2176 (2002).

  5. 5.

    Melillo, J. et al. Soil warming, carbon–nitrogen interactions, and forest carbon budgets. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 9508–9512 (2011).

  6. 6.

    Jenkinson, D. S. et al. Model estimates of CO2 emissions from soil in response to global warming. Nature 351, 304–306 (1991).

  7. 7.

    Goulden, M. L. et al. Sensitivity of boreal forest carbon balance to soil thaw. Science 279, 214–217 (1998).

  8. 8.

    Bond-Lamberty, B. & Thomson, A. Temperature-associated increases in the global soil respiration record. Nature 464, 579–582 (2010).

  9. 9.

    Dixon, R. K. et al. Carbon pools and flux of global forest ecosystems. Science 263, 185–190 (1994).

  10. 10.

    Schimel, D. S. et al. Recent patterns and mechanisms of carbon exchange by terrestrial ecosystems. Nature 414, 169–172 (2001).

  11. 11.

    Tamm, C. O. Nitrogen in Terrestrial Ecosystems: Questions of Productivity, Vegetational Changes, and Ecosystem Stability Ecological Studies 81 (Springer, Berlin, 1991).

  12. 12.

    Bergh, J., Linder, S. & Bergström, J. The effect of water and nutrient availability on the productivity of Norway spruce in northern and southern Sweden. For. Ecol. Manage. 119, 51–62 (1999).

  13. 13.

    Savage, K. E. et al. Long-term changes in forest carbon under temperature and nitrogen amendments in a temperate northern hardwood forest. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 2389–2400 (2013).

  14. 14.

    Bradford, M. A. et al. Thermal adaptation of soil microbial respiration to elevated temperature. Ecol. Lett. 11, 1316–1327 (2008).

  15. 15.

    Melillo, J. et al. Long-term pattern and magnitude of soil carbon feedback to the climate system in a warming world. Science 358, 101–104 (2017).

  16. 16.

    Bergh, J. & Linder, S. Effects of soil warming during spring on photosynthetic recovery in boreal Norway spruce stands. Glob. Change Biol. 5, 245–253 (1999).

  17. 17.

    Linder, S. Foliar analysis for detecting and correcting nutrient imbalances in Norway spruce. Ecol. Bull. 44, 178–190 (1995).

  18. 18.

    Högberg, P. Tansley review No. 95 15N natural abundance in soil-plant systems. New Phytol. 137, 179–203 (1997).

  19. 19.

    Strömgren, M. Soil-Surface CO 2 Flux and Growth in a Boreal Norway Spruce Stand. PhD thesis, Swedish Univ. Agricultural Sciences (2001).

  20. 20.

    Fröberg, M. et al. Long-term effects of experimental fertilization and soil warming on dissolved organic matter leaching from a spruce forest in Northern Sweden. Geoderma 200, 172–179 (2013).

  21. 21.

    Leppälammi-Kujansuu, J. et al. Effects of long-term temperature and nutrient manipulation on Norway spruce fine roots and mycelia production. Plant Soil 366, 287–303 (2013).

  22. 22.

    Olsson, P., Linder, S., Giesler, R. & Högberg, P. Fertilization of boreal forest reduces both autotrophic and heterotrophic soil respiration. Glob. Change Biol. 11, 1745–1753 (2005).

  23. 23.

    Majdi, H. & Öhrvik, J. Interactive effects of soil warming and fertilization on root production, mortality, and longevity in a Norway spruce stand in Northern Sweden. Glob. Change Biol. 10, 182–188 (2004).

  24. 24.

    Coucheney, E., Strömgren, M., Lerch, T. Z. & Herrmann, A. M. Long-term fertilization of a boreal Norway spruce forest increases the temperature sensitivity of soil organic carbon mineralization. Ecol. Evol. 3, 5177–5188 (2013).

  25. 25.

    Leppälammi-Kujansuu, J., Salemaa, M., Kleja, D. B. & Linder, S. Fine root turnover and litter production of Norway spruce in a long-term temperature and nutrient manipulation experiment. Plant Soil 374, 73–88 (2014).

  26. 26.

    Persson, H. in Nutrient Cycling in Terrestrial Ecosystems (eds Harrison, A. F., Ineson, P. & Heal, O. W.) 198–217 (Elsevier Applied Science, Barking, 1990).

  27. 27.

    Carey, J. C. et al. Temperature response of soil respiration largely unaltered with experimental warming. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 113, 13797–13802 (2016).

  28. 28.

    Oren, R. et al. Soil fertility limits carbon sequestration by forest ecosystems in a CO2-enriched atmosphere. Nature 411, 469–472 (2001).

  29. 29.

    Sigurdsson, B. D., Medhurst, J., Wallin, G., Eggertsson, O. & Linder, S. Growth of mature boreal Norway spruce was not affected by elevated [CO2] and/or air temperature unless nutrient availability was improved. Tree Physiol. 33, 1192–1205 (2013).

  30. 30.

    Hägglund, B. & Lundmark, J.-E. Site index estimation by means of site properties of Scots pine and Norway spruce in Sweden. Stud. For. Suec. 138, 1–33 (1977).

  31. 31.

    Sjörs, H. The background: geology, climate and zonation. Acta Phytogeogr. Suec. 84, 5–14 (1999).

  32. 32.

    Lim, H. et al. Inter-annual variability of precipitation constrains the production response of boreal Pinus sylvestris to nitrogen fertilization. For. Ecol. Manage. 348, 31–45 (2015).

  33. 33.

    Petersson, H. & Ståhl, G. Functions for below-ground biomass of Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies, Betula pendula and Betula pubescens in Sweden. Scand. J. For. Res. 21, 84–93 (2006).

  34. 34.

    Lim, H. et al. Annual climate variation modifies nitrogen induced carbon accumulation of Pinus sylvestris forests. Ecol. Appl. 27, 1838–1851 (2017).

  35. 35.

    Thomas, C. T. & Martin, A. R. Carbon content of tree tissues: a synthesis. Forests 3, 332–352 (2012).

  36. 36.

    Flower-Ellis, J. G. K. Dry-matter allocation in Norway spruce branches: a demographic approach. Stud. For. Suec. 191, 51–73 (1993).

  37. 37.

    Ohlsson, K. E. A. & Wallmark, P. H. Novel calibration with correction for drift and non-linear response for continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometry applied to the determination of δ15N, total nitrogen, δ13C and total carbon in biological material. Analyst 124, 571–577 (1999).

  38. 38.

    Reineke, L. H. Perfecting a stand-density index for even-aged forests. J. Agric. Res. 46, 627–638 (1933).

  39. 39.

    Binkley, D., Stape, J. L., Bauerle, W. L. & Ryan, M. G. Explaining growth of individual trees: light interception and efficiency of light use by Eucalyptus at four sites in Brazil. For. Ecol. Manage. 259, 1704–1713 (2010).

  40. 40.

    Pommerening, A. & Muszta, A. Relative plant growth revisited: towards a mathematical standardisation of separate approaches. Ecol. Model. 320, 383–392 (2016).

  41. 41.

    Waring, R. H. Estimating forest growth and efficiency in relation to canopy leaf-area. Adv. Ecol. Res. 13, 327–354 (1983).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study received support from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (MISTRA), the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (VINNOVA), The Swedish Council of Forestry and Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (no. 2015.0047). Financial support for R.O. was provided by the Erkko Visiting Professor Programme, through the University of Helsinki. We especially thank Svartberget Field Station for providing staff for fieldwork.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Umeå, Sweden

    • Hyungwoo Lim
    • , Torgny Näsholm
    • , Tomas Lundmark
    •  & Harald Grip
  2. Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

    • Ram Oren
  3. Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

    • Ram Oren
  4. Department of Soil and Environment, SLU, Uppsala, Sweden

    • Monika Strömgren
  5. Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, SLU, Alnarp, Sweden

    • Sune Linder

Authors

  1. Search for Hyungwoo Lim in:

  2. Search for Ram Oren in:

  3. Search for Torgny Näsholm in:

  4. Search for Monika Strömgren in:

  5. Search for Tomas Lundmark in:

  6. Search for Harald Grip in:

  7. Search for Sune Linder in:

Contributions

S.L. established the experiment in 1994, and designed the present study together with H.L, T.N. and R.O. H.G. collected and analysed the water from the lysimeters. H.L. performed all of the final fieldwork. H.L. and R.O. processed the data, crafted the argument and wrote the paper with input from T.N., S.L., M.S. and T.L. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hyungwoo Lim or Ram Oren.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Tables 1–3, Supplementary Figures 1–2

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0373-9