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New Phytol. 2013 Nov;200(3):767-77. doi: 10.1111/nph.12409. Epub 2013 Jul 22.

Fire, hurricane and carbon dioxide: effects on net primary production of a subtropical woodland.

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Department of Biological Sciences and Ecosystem Science & Society Center, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, 86011, USA.


Disturbance affects most terrestrial ecosystems and has the potential to shape their responses to chronic environmental change. Scrub-oak vegetation regenerating from fire disturbance in subtropical Florida was exposed to experimentally elevated carbon dioxide (CO₂) concentration (+350 μl l(-1)) using open-top chambers for 11 yr, punctuated by hurricane disturbance in year 8. Here, we report the effects of elevated CO₂ on aboveground and belowground net primary productivity (NPP) and nitrogen (N) cycling during this experiment. The stimulation of NPP and N uptake by elevated CO₂ peaked within 2 yr after disturbance by fire and hurricane, when soil nutrient availability was high. The stimulation subsequently declined and disappeared, coincident with low soil nutrient availability and with a CO₂ -induced reduction in the N concentration of oak stems. These findings show that strong growth responses to elevated CO₂ can be transient, are consistent with a progressively limited response to elevated CO₂ interrupted by disturbance, and illustrate the importance of biogeochemical responses to extreme events in modulating ecosystem responses to global environmental change.


disturbance; elevated CO2; fire; global environmental change; hurricane; net primary productivity (NPP); nitrogen cycling; oak woodland

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