Disturbance, rainfall and contrasting species responses mediated aboveground biomass response to 11 years of CO2 enrichment in a Florida scrub-oak ecosystem

Troy J. Seiler, Daniel P. Rasse, Jiahong Li, Paul Dijkstra, Hans P. Anderson, David P. Johnson, Thomas L. Powell, Bruce A. Hungate, C. Ross Hinkle, Bert G. Drake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


This study reports the aboveground biomass response of a fire-regenerated Florida scrub-oak ecosystem exposed to elevated CO2 (1996-2007), from emergence after fire through canopy closure. Eleven years exposure to elevated CO2 caused a 67% increase in aboveground shoot biomass. Growth stimulation was sustained throughout the experiment; although there was significant variability between years. The absolute stimulation of aboveground biomass generally declined over time, reflecting increasing environmental limitations to long-term growth response. Extensive defoliation caused by hurricanes in September 2004 was followed by a strong increase in shoot density in 2005 that may have resulted from reopening the canopy and relocating nitrogen from leaves to the nutrient-poor soil. Biomass response to elevated CO2 was driven primarily by stimulation of growth of the dominant species, Quercus myrtifolia, while Quercus geminata, the other co-dominant oak, displayed no significant CO2 response. Aboveground growth also displayed interannual variation, which was correlated with total annual rainfall. The rainfall × CO2 interaction was partially masked at the community level by species-specific responses: elevated CO2 had an ameliorating effect on Q. myrtifolia growth under water stress. The results of this long-term study not only show that atmospheric CO2 concentration had a consistent stimulating effect on aboveground biomass production, but also showed that available water is the primary driver of interannual variation in shoot growth and that the long-term response to elevated CO2 may have been caused by other factors such as nutrient limitation and disturbance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)356-367
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Aboveground biomass
  • Canopy closure
  • Elevated CO
  • Long-termstimulation
  • Quercus geminata
  • Quercus myrtifolia
  • Resource limitation
  • Scrub-oak
  • Species-specific response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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