Effect of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration on growth and leaf litter decomposition of Quercus acutissima and Fraxinus rhynchophylla

PLoS One. 2017 Feb 9;12(2):e0171197. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171197. eCollection 2017.


The atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) level is expected to increase substantially, which may change the global climate and carbon dynamics in ecosystems. We examined the effects of an elevated atmospheric CO2 level on the growth of Quercus acutissima and Fraxinus rhynchophylla seedlings. We investigated changes in the chemical composition of leaf litter, as well as litter decomposition. Q. acutissima and F. rhynchophylla did not show differences in dry weight between ambient CO2 and enriched CO2 treatments, but they exhibited different patterns of carbon allocation, namely, lower shoot/root ratio (S/R) and decreased specific leaf area (SLA) under CO2-enriched conditions. The elevated CO2 concentration significantly reduced the nitrogen concentration in leaf litter while increasing lignin concentrations and carbon/nitrogen (C/N) and lignin/N ratios. The microbial biomass associated with decomposing Q. acutissima leaf litter was suppressed in CO2 enrichment chambers, while that of F. rhynchophylla was not. The leaf litter of Q. acutissima from the CO2-enriched chambers, in contrast with F. rhynchophylla, contained much lower nutrient concentrations than that of the litter in the ambient air chambers. Consequently, poorer litter quality suppressed decomposition.

MeSH terms

  • Atmosphere / chemistry*
  • Biomass
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Carbon Dioxide / pharmacology*
  • Climate
  • Ecosystem
  • Fraxinus* / drug effects
  • Fraxinus* / growth & development
  • Fraxinus* / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / drug effects*
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Quercus* / drug effects
  • Quercus* / growth & development
  • Quercus* / metabolism
  • Trees / drug effects
  • Trees / growth & development
  • Trees / metabolism


  • Carbon Dioxide

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.