Programs and projects
Project 3032

Carbon cycling traits of plants in a low CO2 world: feedback on soils and the atmosphere
Project leader: Prof. dr. M.A.P.A. Aerts
Researcher(s): MSc A.A. Temme
Starting date:

There is a feedback between atmospheric CO2 and terrestrial plant growth: plants affect atmospheric CO2 concentrations both by C-assimilation during growth and storage in accumulating iomass, but also release carbon to the atmosphere by decomposition of dead organic matter. Recently, plant traits have been shown to play a large magnitude role in regulating terrestrial C cycling rates. Because data for these traits are not preserved in the fossil record, very little is known about the evolutionary history of plant traits that drive the C cycle and how this interacted with atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In this project we will investigate the feedback between variations in atmospheric CO2 during the Pleistocene and C cycling traits of plants. Thereto we will investigate experimentally the key plant trait responses that play a role in regulating terrestrial C cycling rates at past and present levels of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. In addition we will make a phylogenetic reconstruction of the evolution of plant traits that affect C cycling. Finally we will investigate if we can, based on the plant fossil record of the Pleistocene, couple these trait responses and our estimated effects on the C cycle to the reconstructed variations in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.