Nitrogen Deposition Maintains a Positive Effect on Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration in the 21st Century Despite Growing Phosphorus Limitation at Regional Scales

Fleischer, Katrin; Dolman, A.J.; Molen, Michiel K. van der; Rebel, Karin T.; Erisman, Jan Willem; Wassen, Martin J.; Pak, Bernard; Lu, Xingjie; Rammig, Anja; Wang, Ying Ping


Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are two dominant nutrients regulating the productivity of most terrestrial ecosystems. The growing imbalance of anthropogenic N and P inputs into the future is estimated to exacerbate P limitation on land and limit the land carbon (C) sink, so that we hypothesized that P limitation will increasingly reduce C sequestered per unit N deposited into the future. Using a global land surface model (CABLE), we simulated the effects of increased N deposition with and without P limitation on land C uptake and the fate of deposited N on land from 1901 to 2100. Contrary to our hypothesis, we found that N deposition continued to induce land C sequestration into the future, contributing to 15% of future C sequestration as opposed to 6% over the historical period. P limitation reduced the future land C uptake per unit N deposited only moderately at the global scale but P limitation increasingly caused N deposition to have net negative effects on the land C balance in the temperate zone. P limitation further increased the fraction of deposited N that is lost via leaching to aquatic ecosystems, globally from 38.5% over the historical period to 53% into the future, and up to 75% in tropical ecosystems. Our results suggest continued N demand for plant productivity but also indicate growing adverse N deposition effects in the future biosphere, not fully accounted for in global models, emphasizing the urgent need to elaborate on model representations of N and P dynamics.