Increasing aridity will not offset CO2 fertilization in fast-growing eucalypts with access to deep soil water.

By D. Nadal-Sala et al.


Rising atmospheric [CO2] (Ca) generally enhances tree growth if nutrients are not limiting. However, reduced water availability and elevated evaporative demand may offset such fertilization. Trees with access to deep soil water may be able to mitigate such stresses and respond more positively to Ca. Here, we sought to evaluate how increased vapor pressure deficit and reduced precipitation are likely to modify the impact of elevated Ca (eCa) on tree productivity in an Australian Eucalyptus saligna Sm. plantation with access to deep soil water. We parameterized a forest growth simulation model (GOTILWA+) using data from two field experiments on E. saligna: a two‐year whole‐tree chamber experiment with factorial Ca (ambient = 380, elevated = 620 μmol mol‐1) and watering treatments, and a ten‐year stand‐scale irrigation experiment. Model evaluation showed that GOTILWA+ can capture the responses of canopy C uptake to (1) rising vapor pressure deficit (D) under both Ca treatments; (2) alterations in tree water uptake from shallow and deep soil layers during soil dry‐down, and (3) the impact of irrigation on tree growth. Simulations suggest that increasing Ca up to 700 μmol mol‐1 alone would result in a 33% increase in annual GPP and a 62% increase in biomass over ten years. However, a combined 48% increase in D and a 20% reduction in precipitation would halve these values. Our simulations identify high D conditions as a key limiting factor for GPP. They also suggest that rising Ca will compensate for increasing aridity limitations in E. saligna trees with access to deep soil water under non‐nutrient limiting conditions, thereby reducing the negative impacts of global warming upon this eucalypt species. Simulation models not accounting for water sources available to deep‐rooting trees, are likely to overestimate aridity impacts on forest productivity and C stocks.

The full (paywalled) article appeared on the Western Sydney University website at