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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 11 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 11 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Carbon / nitrogen interactions in European forests and semi-natural vegetation. Part II: Untangling climatic, edaphic, management and nitrogen deposition effects on carbon sequestration potentials

Chris R. Flechard1, Marcel van Oijen2, David R. Cameron2, Wim de Vries3, Andreas Ibrom4, Nina Buchmann5, Nancy B. Dise2, Ivan A. Janssens6, Johan Neirynck7, Leonardo Montagnani8,9, Andrej Varlagin10, Denis Loustau11, Arnaud Legout12, Klaudia Ziemblińska13, Marc Aubinet14, Mika Aurela15, Bogdan H. Chojnicki16, Julia Drewer2, Werner Eugster5, André-Jean Francez17, Radosław Juszczak16, Barbara Kitzler18, Werner L. Kutsch19, Annalea Lohila20,15, Bernard Longdoz21, Giorgio Matteucci22, Virginie Moreaux11,23, Albrecht Neftel24, Janusz Olejnik13,25, Maria J. Sanz26, Jan Siemens27, Timo Vesala20,28, Caroline Vincke29, Eiko Nemitz2, Sophie Zechmeister-Boltenstern30, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl31, Ute M. Skiba2, and Mark A. Sutton2 Chris R. Flechard et al.
  • 1Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), UMR 1069 SAS, 65 rue de Saint-Brieuc, 35042 Rennes, France
  • 2Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Bush Estate, Penicuik, EH26 0QB, UK
  • 3Wageningen University and Research, Environmental Systems Analysis Group, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 4Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, Bygningstorvet, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
  • 5Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, LFW C56, Universitatstr. 2, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 6Centre of Excellence PLECO (Plant and Vegetation Ecology), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
  • 7Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Gaverstraat 35, 9500 Geraardsbergen, Belgium
  • 8Forest Services, Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Via Brennero 6, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
  • 9Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bolzano, Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
  • 10A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, 119071, Leninsky pr.33, Moscow, Russia
  • 11Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), UMR 1391 ISPA, 33140 Villenave d’Ornon, France
  • 12INRA, BEF, 54000 Nancy, France
  • 13Department of Meteorology, Poznań University of Life Sciences, Piątkowska 94, 60-649 Poznań, Poland
  • 14TERRA Teaching and Research Centre, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liège, Belgium
  • 15Finnish Meteorological Institute, Climate System Research, PL 503, 00101, Helsinki, Finland
  • 16Laboratory of Bioclimatology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Piatkowska 94, 60-649 Poznan, Poland
  • 17University of Rennes, CNRS, UMR 6553 ECOBIO, Campusde Beaulieu, 263 avenue du Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes CEDEX, France
  • 18Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape, Seckendorff-Gudent-Weg 8, 1131 Vienna, Austria
  • 19Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS ERIC) Head Office, Erik Palménin aukio 1, 00560 Helsinki, Finland
  • 20Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/Physics, Faculty of Science, P.O. Box 68, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 21Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Axe Echanges Ecosystèmes Atmosphère, 8, Avenue de la Faculté, 5030 Gembloux, Belgium
  • 22National Research Council of Italy, Institute for Agricultureand Forestry Systems in the Mediterranean (CNR-ISAFOM), Via Patacca, 80056 Ercolano (NA), Italy
  • 23Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IGE, 38000 Grenoble, France
  • 24NRE, Oberwohlenstrasse 27, 3033 Wohlen b. Bern, Switzerland
  • 25Department of Matter and Energy Fluxes, Global Change Research Centre, AS CR, v.v.i. Belidla 986/4a, 603 00 Brno, Czech Republic
  • 26Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Scientific Park, Sede Building, s/n Leioa, Bizkaia, Spain
  • 27Institute of Soil Science and Soil Conservation, iFZ Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition, Justus Liebig 50University Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32, 35392 Giessen, Germany
  • 28Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/ForestSciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, P.O. Box 27, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 29Earth and Life Institute (Environmental sciences), Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 30Institute of Soil Research, Department of Forest and Soil Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences 55Vienna, Peter Jordan Str. 82, 1190 Vienna, Austria
  • 31Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Kreuzeckbahnstr. 19, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Abstract. The effects of atmospheric nitrogen deposition (Ndep) on carbon (C) sequestration in forests have often been assessed by relating differences in productivity to spatial variations of Ndep across a large geographic domain. These correlations generally suffer from covariation of other confounding variables related to climate and other growth-limiting factors, as well as large uncertainties in total (dry + wet) reactive nitrogen (Nr) deposition. We propose a methodology for untangling the effects of Ndep from those of meteorological variables, soil water retention capacity and stand age, using a mechanistic forest growth model in combination with eddy covariance CO2 exchange fluxes from a Europe-wide network of forest flux towers. Total Nr deposition rates were estimated from local measurements as far as possible. The forest data were compared with data from natural or semi-natural, non-woody vegetation sites. The carbon sequestration response of forests to nitrogen deposition (dC / dN) was estimated after accounting for the effects of the co-correlates by means of a meta-modelling standardization procedure, which resulted in a reduction by a factor of about 2 of the uncorrected, apparent dC / dN value. This model-enhanced analysis of the C and Ndep flux observations at the scale of the European network suggests a mean overall dC / dN response of forest lifetime C sequestration to Ndep of the order of 40–50 g (C) g−1 (N), which is slightly larger but not significantly different from the range of estimates published in the most recent reviews. Importantly, patterns of gross primary and net ecosystem productivity versus Ndep were non-linear, with no further responses at high Ndep levels (Ndep > 2.5–3 g (N) m−2 yr−1) partly due to large ecosystem N losses by leaching and gaseous emissions. The reduced increase in productivity per unit N deposited at high Ndep levels implies that the forecast increased Nr emissions and increased Ndep levels in large areas of Asia may not positively impact the continent's forest CO2 sink. The large level of unexplained variability in observed carbon sequestration efficiency (CSE) across sites further adds to the uncertainty in the dC / dN response.

Chris R. Flechard et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Chris R. Flechard et al.
Chris R. Flechard et al.
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Short summary
Nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere to unfertilized terrestrial vegetation such as forests can increase carbon dioxide uptake and favour carbon sequestration by ecosystems. However the data from observational networks are difficult to interpret in terms of a carbon to nitrogen response, because there are a number of other confounding factors, such as climate, soil physical properties and fertility, and forest age. We propose a model-based method to untangle the different influences.
Nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere to unfertilized terrestrial vegetation such as forests...