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Research article2019Peer reviewed

Boreal forest biomass accumulation is not increased by two decades of soil warming

Lim, Hyungwoo; Oren, Ram; Nasholm, Torgny; Stromgren, Monika; Lundmark, Tomas; Grip, Harald; Linder, Sune


Increased soil organic matter decomposition with increasing temperature has been hypothesized to enhance soil nitrogen availability, consequently stimulating forest biomass production and offsetting decomposition-induced soil carbon losses(1-5). This projection, however, is based on evidence gathered from short-term studies (<= 10 years)(2,3,5). The key question for carbon sequestration is whether such responses are transient or persist over long forest rotation periods. Here we report on biomass production in a typical nitrogen-limited boreal Picea abies forest, exposed to 18 years of soil warming manipulation (+ 5 degrees C) at a plot scale (100 m(2)). We show that two decades of soil warming elicited only short-duration growth responses, thus not significantly increasing aboveground biomass accumulation. Furthermore, in combination with published work from this forest, our results suggest that increased decomposition is slight and ephemeral, and increased fine root production and turnover in deeper soil may be greater than increased decomposition, netting slightly more biomass, perhaps conserving the soil carbon stock. Thus, this long-term study does not support the notion that the projected increase in soil temperatures will cause either an increased carbon loss with decomposition or a compensatory growth increase from nitrogen mineralization.

Published in

Nature Climate Change
2019, Volume: 9, number: 1, pages: 49-52