The quickly rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)-levels, justify the need to explore all carbon (C) sequestration possibilities that might mitigate the current CO2 increase. Here, we report the likely impact of future increases in atmospheric CO2 on woody biomass production of three poplar species (Populus alba L. clone 2AS-11, Populus nigra L. clone Jean Pourtet and Populus×euramericana clone I-214). Trees were growing in a high-density coppice plantation during the second rotation (i.e., regrowth after coppice; 2002–2004; POPFACE/EUROFACE). Six plots were studied, half of which were continuously fumigated with CO2 (FACE; free air carbon dioxide enrichment of 550 ppm). Half of each plot was fertilized to study the interaction between CO2 and nutrient fertilization. At the end of the second rotation, selective above- and belowground harvests were performed to estimate the productivity of this bio-energy plantation. Fertilization did not affect growth of the poplar trees, which was likely because of the high rates of fertilization during the previous agricultural land use. In contrast, elevated CO2 enhanced biomass production by up to 29%, and this stimulation did not differ between above- and belowground parts. The increased initial stump size resulting from elevated CO2 during the first rotation (1999–2001) could not solely explain the observed final biomass increase. The larger leaf area index after canopy closure and the absence of any major photosynthetic acclimation after 6 years of fumigation caused the sustained CO2-induced biomass increase after coppice. These results suggest that, under future CO2 concentrations, managed poplar coppice systems may exhibit higher potential for C sequestration and, thus, help mitigate climate change when used as a source of C-neutral energy.
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