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Reduced water repellency of a grassland soil under elevated atmospheric CO2


Paul C. D. Newton, fax +64 6 351 8042, e-mail:


Water repellency is a widespread characteristic of soils that can modify soil moisture content and distribution and is implicated in important processes such as aggregation and carbon sequestration. Repellency arises as a consequence of organic matter inputs; as elevated atmospheric CO2 is known to modify such inputs, we tested the repellency of a grassland soil after 5 years of exposure to elevated CO2 in a free air carbon dioxide enrichment experiment. Using a water droplet penetration time test, we found a significant reduction in repellency at elevated CO2 in samples at field moisture content. As many of the processes potentially influenced by repellency have been shown to be modified at elevated CO2 (e.g. soil aggregation, C sequestration, recruitment from seed), we suggest that further exploration of this phenomenon could enhance our understanding of CO2 effects on ecosystem function. The mechanism responsible for the change in repellency has not been identified.