Nitrogen accumulation, rather than carbon: Nitrogen stoichiometric variation, underlies carbon storage during forest succession

Junliang Zou, Juying Wu, Bruce Osborne, Brian Tobin, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Forest ecosystems play an important role in regulating global temperatures through their capability to take up and store CO2 from the atmosphere, but the magnitude and sustainability of this carbon (C) sink is critically dependent on the availability of nutrients, particularly nitrogen (N). However, the extent to which the absolute amount of N or modifications in plant and soil C:N ratios controls long-term forest carbon sequestration (Cseq) remains uncertain. To assess this, we analyzed the results of 135 global field studies that investigated the dynamics of C and N availability during forest succession. The results showed that the accumulation of C and N in plant (including aboveand below-ground vegetation) and litter pools decreased with forest age and approached an equilibrium value in the latter stages of stand development. Plant and litter C:N ratios increased during the first 10-20 years and remained relatively stable thereafter. The analysis further showed that the relative importance of a change in the total amount of N or modifications in the C:N ratio, to increases in Cseq, varied with forest age. Whilst the relative importance of a change in the total amount of N increased with forest age, the relative importance of a varied C:N stoichiometry decreased with forest age. Overall, a change in the total amount of N was the more important factor contributing to C storage during forest stand development and the C stored in vegetation dominated the total ecosystem C pool. These results show that ecosystem N availability is a key factor supporting long-term forest Cseq during forest succession. As most of the C is found in above-ground vegetation, this pool is particularly susceptible to abiotic or biotic factors and anthropogenically-related disturbances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024055
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Carbon sink
  • Carbon-nitrogen coupling
  • Forest succession
  • Nitrogen limitation
  • Stand age
  • Stoichiometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Nitrogen accumulation, rather than carbon: Nitrogen stoichiometric variation, underlies carbon storage during forest succession'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this