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Biomass responses in a temperate European grassland through 17 years of elevated CO2

Andresen, Louise C., Yuan, Naiming, Seibert, Ruben, Moser, Gerald, Kammann, Claudia I., Luterbacher, Jürg, Erbs, Martin, Müller, Christoph
Global change biology 2018 v.24 no.9 pp. 3875-3885
C3 plants, aboveground biomass, biomass production, carbon dioxide, ecosystems, forbs, free air carbon dioxide enrichment, grasses, grasslands, legumes, models, moieties, soil water, solar radiation
Future increase in atmospheric CO₂ concentrations will potentially enhance grassland biomass production and shift the functional group composition with consequences for ecosystem functioning. In the “GiFACE” experiment (Giessen Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment), fertilized grassland plots were fumigated with elevated CO₂ (eCO₂) year‐round during daylight hours since 1998, at a level of +20% relative to ambient concentrations (in 1998, aCO₂ was 364 ppm and eCO₂ 399 ppm; in 2014, aCO₂ was 397 ppm and eCO₂ 518 ppm). Harvests were conducted twice annually through 23 years including 17 years with eCO₂ (1998 to 2014). Biomass consisted of C3 grasses and forbs, with a small proportion of legumes. The total aboveground biomass (TAB) was significantly increased under eCO₂ (p = .045 and .025, at first and second harvest). The dominant plant functional group grasses responded positively at the start, but for forbs, the effect of eCO₂ started out as a negative response. The increase in TAB in response to eCO₂ was approximately 15% during the period from 2006 to 2014, suggesting that there was no attenuation of eCO₂ effects over time, tentatively a consequence of the fertilization management. Biomass and soil moisture responses were closely linked. The soil moisture surplus (c. 3%) in eCO₂ manifested in the latter years was associated with a positive biomass response of both functional groups. The direction of the biomass response of the functional group forbs changed over the experimental duration, intensified by extreme weather conditions, pointing to the need of long‐term field studies for obtaining reliable responses of perennial ecosystems to eCO₂ and as a basis for model development.