New study shows nitrogen available to plants is in decline

According to an article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, the authors of which include CREAF postdoctoral researchers Sara Marañón and Rossella Guerrieri (Marie Sklodowska Curie grant holders), the concentration of nitrogen in plant leaves has been in general decline throughout the world for the last 40 years.

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Photo: CREAF

The finding in question has led the members of the international team behind the article to warn that nitrogen, a vital element for plants, is decreasing in all terrestrial ecosystems. They identify two key factors in this, the first being the fertilizing effect of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). More CO2 results in greater forest growth and higher demand for nitrogen from plants, for which it is a nutrient. The second factor is that climate change is causing plants’ growing seasons to last longer (autumn ends later and spring arrives earlier), extending the yearly period in which demand for nitrogen is high. In some parts of the world, such as Europe and the USA, regulations on coal-fired power stations’ emissions are a third factor, having improved the quality of the air we breathe but, as a side effect, reduced the amount of nitrogen that reaches ecosystems…

Read full article on the CREAF Blog