Elevated CO2 reduces the nitrogen concentration of plant tissues


Dr M. Francesca Cotrufo, tel +39 823 275209, fax +39 823 326535, e-mail


We summarize the impacts of elevated CO2 on the N concentration of plant tissues and present data to support the hypothesis that reductions in the quality of plant tissue commonly occur when plants are grown under elevated CO2. Synthesis of existing data showed an average 14% reduction of N concentrations in plant tissue generated under elevated CO2 regimes. However, elevated CO2 appeared to have different effects on the N concentrations of different plant types, as the reported reductions in N have been larger in C3 plants than in C4 plants and N2-fixers. Under elevated CO2 plants changed their allocation of N between above- and below-ground components: root N concentrations were reduced by an average of 9% compared to a 14% average reduction for above-ground tissues. Although the concentration of CO2 treatments represented a significant source of variance for plant N concentration, no consistent trends were observed between them.