Legume species identity and soil nitrogen supply determine symbiotic nitrogen-fixation responses to elevated atmospheric [CO2]. Academic Article uri icon


  • In nitrogen (N)-limited systems, the response of symbiotic N fixation to elevated atmospheric [CO2] may be an important determinant of ecosystem responses to this global change. Experimental tests of the effects of elevated [CO2] have not been consistent. Although rarely tested, differences among legume species and N supply may be important. In a field free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiment, we determined, for four legume species, whether the effects of elevated atmospheric [CO2] on symbiotic N fixation depended on soil N availability or species identity. Natural abundance and pool-dilution 15N methods were used to estimate N fixation. Although N addition did, in general, decrease N fixation, contrary to theoretical predictions, elevated [CO2] did not universally increase N fixation. Rather, the effect of elevated [CO2] on N fixation was positive, neutral or negative, depending on the species and N addition. Our results suggest that legume species identity and N supply are critical factors in determining symbiotic N-fixation responses to increased atmospheric [CO2].

published proceedings

  • New Phytol

author list (cited authors)

  • West, J. B., HilleRisLambers, J., Lee, T. D., Hobbie, S. E., & Reich, P. B.

citation count

  • 86

complete list of authors

  • West, Jason B||HilleRisLambers, Janneke||Lee, Tali D||Hobbie, Sarah E||Reich, Peter B

publication date

  • August 2005