The rapidly rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affect plants’ absorption of nitrogen, which is the nutrient that restricts crop growth in most terrestrial ecosystems. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have now revealed that the concentration of nitrogen in plants’ tissue is lower in air with high levels of carbon dioxide, regardless of whether or not the plants’ growth is stimulated. The study has been published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Researcher Johan Uddling has been working with Swedish and international colleagues to compile data on how raised levels of carbon dioxide impact on plant growth and nitrogen absorption.
Plant quality impaired by increased carbon dioxide levels
The study examines various types of ecosystems, including crops, grasslands and forests, and involves large-scale field experiments conducted in eight countries on four continents.
“The findings of the study are unequivocal. The nitrogen content in the crops is reduced in atmospheres with raised carbon dioxide levels in all three ecosystem types. Furthermore, we can see that this negative effect exists regardless of whether or not the plants’ growth increases, and even if fertiliser is added. This is unexpected and new,” says Johan Uddling, senior lecturer at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.
Significance of food quality, biodiversity and productivity