Findings from a recent study published in the journal, Global Change Biology, show that the effects of nutrient limitations on tree forest growth need to be considered when evaluating the carbon storage capacity of forests and when planning to reduce CO2 emissions by increased use of wood biomass for energy.
Sue Benham, from Forest Research, was part of an international team that analysed data on foliar nutrition status (the concentration of nutrients in leaves) collected during 1992–2009 from intensive forest monitoring plots across Europe. One of the study’s main findings was that the concentration of Phosphorus (P) in the leaves of F. sylvatica(Beech), Q. Petraea (Sessile Oak) and P. sylvestris (Scots Pine) had significantly deteriorated during 1992–2009. The study concludes that high Nitrogen (N) deposition and the global increase in atmospheric CO2 may have increased tree productivity, leading to a higher demand for nutrients. The deterioration of tree mineral nutrition could partly be explained by soil nutrient supplies not being sufficient to meet the demands of these faster growing trees.