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Two of the most important and pervasive greenhouse gases driving global change and impacting forests in the U.S. and around the world are atmospheric CO2 and tropospheric O3. As the only free air, large-scale manipulative experiment studying the interaction of elevated CO2 and O3 on forests, the Aspen FACE experiment was uniquely designed to address the long-term ecosystem level impacts of these two greenhouse gases on aspen-birch-maple forests, which dominate the richly forested Lake States region. The project was established in 1997 to address the overarching scientific question: “What are the effects of elevated [CO2] and [O3], alone and in combination, on the structure and functioning of northern hardwood forest ecosystems?” From 1998 through the middle of the 2009 growing season, we examined the interacting effects of elevated CO2 and O3 on ecosystem processes in an aggrading northern forest ecosystem to compare the responses of early-successional, rapid-growing shade intolerant trembling aspen and paper birch to those of a late successional, slower growing shade tolerant sugar maple. Fumigations with elevated CO2 (560 ppm during daylight hours) and O3 (approximately 1.5 x ambient) were conducted during the growing season from 1998 to 2008, and in 2009 through harvest date. Response variables quantifiedmore » during the experiment included growth, competitive interactions and stand dynamics, physiological processes, plant nutrient status and uptake, tissue biochemistry, litter quality and decomposition rates, hydrology, soil respiration, microbial community composition and respiration, VOC production, treatment-pest interactions, and treatment-phenology interactions. In 2009, we conducted a detailed harvest of the site. The harvest included detailed sampling of a subset of trees by component (leaves and buds, fine branches, coarse branches and stem, coarse roots, fine roots) and excavation of soil to a depth of 1 m. Throughout the experiment, aspen and birch photosynthesis increased with elevated CO2 and tended to decrease with elevated O3, compared to the control. In contrast to aspen and birch, maple photosynthesis was not enhanced by elevated CO2. Elevated O3 did not cause significant reductions in maximum photosynthesis in birch or maple. In addition, photosynthesis in ozone sensitive clones was affected to a much greater degree than that in ozone tolerant aspen clones. Treatment effects on photosynthesis contributed to CO2 stimulation of aboveground and belowground growth that was species and genotype dependent, with birch and aspen being most responsive and maple being least responsive. The positive effects of elevated CO2 on net primary productivity NPP were sustained through the end of the experiment, but negative effects of elevated O3 on NPP had dissipated during the final three years of treatments. The declining response to O3 over time resulted from the compensatory growth of O3-tolerant genotypes and species as the growth of O3-sensitive individuals declined over time. Cumulative NPP over the entire experiment was 39% greater under elevated CO2 and 10% lower under elevated O3. Enhanced NPP under elevated CO2 was sustained by greater root exploration of soil for growth-limiting N, as well as more rapid rates of litter decomposition and microbial N release during decay. Results from Aspen FACE clearly indicate that plants growing under elevated carbon dioxide, regardless of community type or ozone level, obtained significantly greater amounts of soil N. These results indicate that greater plant growth under elevated carbon dioxide has not led to “progressive N limitation”. If similar forests growing throughout northeastern North America respond in the same manner, then enhanced forest NPP under elevated CO2 may be sustained for a longer duration than previously thought, and the negative effect of elevated O3 may be diminished by compensatory growth of O3-tolerant plants as they begin to dominate forest communities. By the end of the experiment, elevated CO2 increased ecosystem C content by 11%, whereas elevated O3 decreased ecosystem C content by 9%. Total ecosystem C content in the interaction treatment (elevated CO2 and O3) did not significantly differ from that of the control. Total ecosystem C content responded similarly to the treatments across the three forest communities. The treatment effects on ecosystem C content resulted from differences in tree biomass, particularly woody tissues (branches, stem, and coarse roots), and lower C content in the near-surface mineral soil. During its duration, the Aspen FACE project involved collaboration between scientists from 9 countries, and over the course of the experiment there were over 120 Aspen FACE scientific users. These scientists helped produce 75 publications during the most recent funding period (2008-2014) and 207 peer-reviewed publications (169 in refereed journals) since the beginning of the project.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4]
  1. Michigan Technological University
  2. University of Michigan
  3. USDA Forest Service
  4. University of Idaho
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Michigan Technological University
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Contributing Orgs:
USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station; University of Michigan; University of Idaho
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Elevated carbon dioxide; Elevated ozone; Northern forests; Aspen; Birch: Sugar maple; FACE experiment; Net primary productivity; Ecosystem carbon storage; Community composition