Effect of nitrogen and phosphorus availability on the growth response of Eucalyptus grandis to high CO2


J. P. Conroy, Faculty of Horticulture, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia.


The response of Eucalyptus grandis seedlings to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations was examined by growing seedlings at either 340 or 660 n mol CO2 mol-1 for 6 weeks. Graded increments of phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers were added to a soil deficient in these nutrients to establish if the growth response to increasing nutrient availability was affected by CO2 concentration. At 660 μmol CO2 mol-1, seedling dry weight was up to five times greater than at 340 μmol CO2 mol-1. The absolute response was largest when both nitrogen and phosphorus availability was high but the relative increase in dry weight was greatest at low phosphorus availability. At 340 μmol CO2 mol-1 and high nitrogen availability, growth was stimulated by addition of phosphorus up to 76 mg kg 1 soil. Further additions of phosphorus had little effect. However, at 660 μmol CO2 mol-1, growth only began to plateau at a phosphorus addition rate of 920mg kg-1 soil. At 340 μmol CO2 mol-1 and high phosphorus availability, increasing nitrogen from 40 to 160mg kg-1 soil had little effect on plant growth. At high CO2, growth reached a maximum at between 80 and 160mg nitrogen kg-1 soil. Total uptake of phosphorus was greater at high CO2 concentration at all fertilizer addition rates, but nitrogen uptake was either lower or unchanged at high CO2 concentration except at the highest nitrogen fertilizer rate. The shoot to root ratio was increased by CO2 enrichment, primarily because the specific leaf weight was greater. The nitrogen and phosphorus concentration in the foliage was lower at elevated CO2 concentration partly because of the higher specific leaf weight. These results indicate that critical foliar concentrations currently used to define nutritional status and fertilizer management may need to be reassessed as the atmospheric CO2 concentration rises.