Isotopic evidence for oligotrophication of terrestrial ecosystems

Joseph M. Craine, Andrew J. Elmore, Lixin Wang, Julieta Aranibar, Marijn Bauters, Pascal Boeckx, Brooke E. Crowley, Melissa A. Dawes, Sylvain Delzon, Alex Fajardo, Yunting Fang, Lei Fujiyoshi, Alan Gray, Rossella Guerrieri, Michael J. Gundale, David J. Hawke, Peter Hietz, Mathieu Jonard, Elizabeth Kearsley, Tanaka KenzoMikhail Makarov, Sara Marañón-Jiménez, Terrence P. McGlynn, Brenden E. McNeil, Stella G. Mosher, Davidm Nelson, Pablo L. Peri, Jean Christophe Roggy, Rebecca Sanders-Demott, Minghua Song, Paul Szpak, Pamela H. Templer, Dewidine Van der Colff, Christiane Werner, Xingliang Xu, Yang Yang, Guirui Yu, Katarzyna Zmudczyńska-Skarbek

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    109 Citations (Scopus)


    © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2018. Human societies depend on an Earth system that operates within a constrained range of nutrient availability, yet the recent trajectory of terrestrial nitrogen (N) availability is uncertain. Examining patterns of foliar N concentrations and isotope ratios (δ 15 N) from more than 43,000 samples acquired over 37 years, here we show that foliar N concentration declined by 9% and foliar δ 15 N declined by 0.6–1.6‰. Examining patterns across different climate spaces, foliar δ 15 N declined across the entire range of mean annual temperature and mean annual precipitation tested. These results suggest declines in N supply relative to plant demand at the global scale. In all, there are now multiple lines of evidence of declining N availability in many unfertilized terrestrial ecosystems, including declines in δ 15 N of tree rings and leaves from herbarium samples over the past 75–150 years. These patterns are consistent with the proposed consequences of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and longer growing seasons. These declines will limit future terrestrial carbon uptake and increase nutritional stress for herbivores.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1735-1744
    JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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