Nitrogen and phosphorus constrain the CO2 fertilization of global plant biomass

Cesar Terrer*, Robert B. Jackson, I. Colin Prentice, Trevor F. Keenan, Christina Kaiser, Sara Vicca, Joshua B. Fisher, Peter B. Reich, Benjamin D. Stocker, Bruce A. Hungate, Josep Penuelas, Ian McCallum, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Lucas A. Cernusak, Alan F. Talhelm, Kevin Van Sundert, Shilong Piao, Paul C. D. Newton, Mark J. Hovenden, Dana M. BlumenthalYi Y. Liu, Christoph Mueller, Klaus Winter, Christopher B. Field, Wolfgang Viechtbauer, Caspar J. Van Lissa, Marcel R. Hoosbeek, Makoto Watanabe, Takayoshi Koike, Victor O. Leshyk, H. Wayne Polley, Oskar Franklin

*Corresponding author for this work

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Elevated CO2 (eCO(2)) experiments provide critical information to quantify the effects of rising CO2 on vegetation 1-6 . Many eCO(2) experiments suggest that nutrient limitations modulate the local magnitude of the eCO(2) effect on plant biomass(1,3,5), but the global extent of these limitations has not been empirically quantified, complicating projections of the capacity of plants to take up CO27,9. Here, we present a data-driven global quantification of the eCO(2) effect on biomass based on 138 eCO(2) experiments. The strength of CO2 fertilization is primarily driven by nitrogen (N) in similar to 65% of global vegetation and by phosphorus (P) in similar to 25% of global vegetation, with N- or P-limitation modulated by mycorrhizal association. Our approach suggests that CO2 levels expected by 2100 can potentially enhance plant biomass by 12 +/- 3% above current values, equivalent to 59 +/- 13 PgC. The globalscale response to eCO(2) we derive from experiments is similar to past changes in greenness(9) and bio-mass(10) with rising CO2, suggesting that CO2 will continue to stimulate plant biomass in the future despite the constraining effect of soil nutrients. Our research reconciles conflicting evidence on CO2 fertilization across scales and provides an empirical estimate of the biomass sensitivity to eCO(2) that may help to constrain climate projections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-689
Number of pages9
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Author Correction: Nitrogen and phosphorus constrain the CO2 fertilization of global plant biomass

    Terrer, C., Jackson, R. B., Prentice, I. C., Keenan, T. F., Kaiser, C., Vicca, S., Fisher, J. B., Reich, P. B., Stocker, B. D., Hungate, B. A., Peñuelas, J., McCallum, I., Soudzilovskaia, N. A., Cernusak, L. A., Talhelm, A. F., Van Sundert, K., Piao, S., Newton, P. C. D., Hovenden, M. J., Blumenthal, D. M., & 12 othersLiu, Y. Y., Müller, C., Winter, K., Field, C. B., Viechtbauer, W., Van Lissa, C. J., Hoosbeek, M. R., Watanabe, M., Koike, T., Leshyk, V. O., Polley, H. W. & Franklin, O., 1 Jul 2020, In: Nature Climate Change. 10, 7, p. 696-697 2 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalErratum / corrigendum / retractionsAcademic

    Open Access

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