Plant-soil distribution of potentially toxic elements in response to elevated atmospheric CO2

Benjamin D. Duval, Paul Dijkstra, Susan M. Natali, J. Patrick Megonigal, Michael E. Ketterer, Bert G. Drake, Manuel T. Lerdau, Gwyneth Gordon, Ariel D. Anbar, Bruce A. Hungate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The distribution of contaminant elements within ecosystems is an environmental concern because of these elements' potential toxicity to animals and plants and their ability to hinder microbial ecosystem services. As with nutrients, contaminants are cycled within and through ecosystems. Elevated atmospheric CO2 generally increases plant productivity and alters nutrient element cycling, but whether CO2 causes similar effects on the cycling of contaminant elements is unknown. Here we show that 11 years of experimental CO2 enrichment in a sandy soil with low organic matter content causes plants to accumulate contaminants in plant biomass, with declines in the extractable contaminant element pools in surface soils. These results indicate that CO2 alters the distribution of contaminant elements in ecosystems, with plant element accumulation and declining soil availability both likely explained by the CO2 stimulation of plant biomass. Our results highlight the interdependence of element cycles and the importance of taking a broad view of the periodic table when the effects of global environmental change on ecosystem biogeochemistry are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2570-2574
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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