The C:N:P stoichiometry of organisms and ecosystems in a changing world: A review and perspectives

J. Sardans, A. Rivas-Ubach, J. Peñuelas

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

    327 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This study examined the literature in ISI Web of Science to identify the effects that the main drivers of global change have on the nutrient concentrations and C:N:P stoichiometry of organisms and ecosystems, and examined their relationship to changes in ecosystem structure and function. We have conducted a meta-analysis by comparing C:N:P ratios of plants and soils subjected to elevated [CO 2] with those subjected to ambient [CO 2]. A second meta-analysis compared the C:N:P ratios of plants and soils that received supplemental N to simulate N deposition and those that did not receive supplemental N. On average, an experimental increase in atmospheric [CO 2] increased the foliar C:N ratios of C3 grasses, forbs, and woody plants by 22%, but the foliar ratios of C4 grasses were unaffected. This trend may be enhanced in semi-arid areas by the increase in droughts that have been projected for the coming decades which can increase leaf C:N ratios. The available studies show an average 38% increase in foliar C:P ratios in C3 plants in response to elevated atmospheric [CO 2], but no significant effects were observed in C4 grasses. Furthermore, studies that examine the effects of elevated atmospheric [CO 2] on N:P ratio (on a mass basis) are warranted since its response remains elusive. N deposition increases the N:P ratio in the plants of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, and decreases plants and organic soil C:N ratio (25% on average for C3 plants), reducing soil and water N 2 fixation capacity and ecosystem species diversity. In contrast, in croplands subjected to intense fertilization, mostly, animal slurries, a reduction in soil N:P ratio can occur because of the greater solubility and loss of N. In the open ocean, there are experimental observations showing an ongoing increase in P-limited areas in response to several of the factors that promote global change, including the increase in atmospheric [CO 2] which increases the demand for P, the warming effect that leads to an increase in water column stratification, and increases in the N:P ratio of atmospheric inputs. Depending on the type of plant and the climate where it grows, warming can increase, reduce, or have no effect on foliar C:N ratios. The results suggest that warming and drought can increase C:N and C:P ratios in warm-dry and temperate-dry terrestrial ecosystems, especially, when high temperatures and drought coincide. Advances in this topic are a challenge because changes in stoichiometric ratios can favour different types of species and change ecosystem composition and structure. © 2011 Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-47
    JournalPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
    Volume14
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2012

    Keywords

    • Climate change
    • CO 2
    • Drought
    • Elemental stoichiometry
    • Eutrophication
    • Warming

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The C:N:P stoichiometry of organisms and ecosystems in a changing world: A review and perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this