carbon fertilizer wins …

Carbon dioxide has now been found to fertilize plants above ground and below, in the soils. That’s what a new paper has discovered, and a precis is here, at co2science.

In an enlightening new paper, Vejpustkova et al. (2016) report how they measured the inter-annual ring-width variations and cumulative growth of ten aspen (Populus tremula L.) trees growing on spots of different soil CO2 concentration within their rooting zones at a natural mofette site (an opening in a region of nearly extinct volcanic activity, through which carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other gases pass), which they conducted in the flood plain of a stream near Hartousoz in Western Bohemia.

These trees, which were growing in a pure aspen stand, were selected on the basis of the CO2-gas regimes within their rooting zones. More specifically, five of them had mean root-zone soil CO2 concentrations of 10-25% while five others had mean concentrations of 3% or less. And what did Vejpustkova et al. learn by so doing?

The five researchers — hailing from Germany and the Czech Republic — report that at the age of 25 years, the basal area of the high CO2 trees exceeded that of the low CO2 trees by 39%. And in light of these significant findings, they conclude that “trees can be fertilized not only by elevated atmospheric CO2 but also when fed with CO2 via the roots.” And so we see that whether above or below ground, CO2 enrichment of those environments can prove a blessing to Earth’s aspen trees.

Mean cumulative stem basal area of aspen high CO2 (HC) and low CO2 (LC) trees from the Hartousov mofette location. Vertical bars indicate +/–SE. Adapted from Vejpustkova et al 2016.

Now I am off to burn more CO2 to improve my trees.

Paper Reviewed
Vejpustkova, M., Thomalla, A., Cihak, T., Lomsky, B. and Pfanz, H. 2016. Growth of Populus tremula on CO2-enriched soil at a natural mofette site. Dendrobiology 75: 3-12.

About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley) Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Incorporated Kimberley Environmental Horticulture (KEH) is a small group of committed individuals who promote the use of indigenous plants for the landscaping of parks and gardens. Rehabilitation of Kimberley coast, bushland and pastoral regions are also high on our agenda. This includes planting seedlings, weed control, damage from erosion or any other environmental matter that comes to our attention. We come from all walks of life, from Professionals and Trades oriented occupations, Pensioners and Students, Public Servants and the Unemployed. We have a community plant nursery where we trial many old and new species, with a view to incorporating these into our landscaping trials. Our labour force are mainly volunteers, but with considerable help from the 'work for the dole' program, Indigenous Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) groups and the Ministry of Justice, with their community work orders; in this way we manage to train many people in the horticultural skills needed for indigenous plant growing. We constantly undertake field trips that cover seed and plant collection in the Kimberley. Networking around the Kimberley region and the east Pilbara is a necessary part of promoting our activities. We consult on a range of Environmental and Landscaping matters that deal with our region. Our activities involve improving Broome's residential streetscapes by including 'waterwise' priciples in planting out nature strips. Sustainable environmental horticulture is practised by members of our group. We use existing vegetation as the backbone of any plantings, using these species to advantage when planning to develop tree forms or orchards. The Broome region is sensitive to development. Subsequently many weed species have become dominant in and around developed areas. The use and movement of heavy machinery is the biggest single cause of environmental degradation. We dont live in a 'Tropical Paradise' but on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The plants that survive best here, grow in well-drained pindan sand, and are found from the Dampier Peninsular southward to where average rainfall is below 600mm. When we use rainforest species, detail is important when planting, water catchment, sunlight and understorey species are all considered. The use of recycled 'grey' water is an advantage here as well as treated waste-water, although many local species do not fare well with nutrients from this source. We use waterwise planting methods which include harvesting asmuch rainwater as possible, with swales designed to hold up to 200 litres, to help recharge the local groundwater aquifer. There has been a serious decline in this aquifer over the last few years. With the fast expansion of the Broome peninsular, more and more land is being covered by concrete, iron and bitumen so that much less water is available to replenish the aquifer, allowing the salt content to become significantly higher. The small Broome Peninsular is on the south-western corner of the Dampier Peninsular (bound by Broome, Derby and Cape Leveque at the northern tip). Compaction by vehicles also inhibits water retention due to the content of our local pindan sand, hard as concrete in the dry, going to soft and sloppy mud after rain. None of us are botanists, inevitably we have got some names wrong, names changed, or have not gone to sub-species level. If you note a photo or description may be wrong, please e-mail to
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One Response to carbon fertilizer wins …

  1. dbstealey says:

    CO2 is more than just a fertilizer. When you put a seed in a pot of soil and it grows into a good sized plant, that growrth doesn’t come from the soil. If it did, the soil would be depleted as the plant grew.

    In fact, almost the entire plant is constructed from just water and CO2. All the plant’s sugars, starches, and cellulose are built from carbon dioxide.

    The plant takes in CO2, strips off the oxygen molecule, and emits it—keeping that evil carbon for its own greedy self. Meanwhile, the oxygen is used by us animals. It’s a trade-off that uses the sun’s energy to balance the books.

    Right now CO2 is ≈400 ppm. EVERYBODY PANIC!!…


    CO2 is the basic building block of the biosphere, which couldn’t live without it. More CO2 is better, up to at least a few thousand parts per million. We’re made from carbon, and we exhale 40,000 ppm with each breath. But the eco contingent is panicking over 400 ppm.

    CO2 has been more than 15 times higher in the past, when the earth teemed with life and diversity. As usual, the eco crowd got it wrong. But they’re still trying to demonize a tiny trace gas that would kill life on earth if it fell below around 150 ppm.

    So, how bad is 400 ppm anyway? It’s this bad:

    Over the past century, CO2 has risen by only one part in 10,000. That’s all. We couldn’t even tell without using very sensitive instruments. Only the plants can tell—and they like it.

    So next time someone mentions the “carbon” scare, ask them how much CO2 has gone up over the past century. But first, ask them why the dirt in a flower pot stays at the same level…

    …and yes, I like pulling the wings off flies. ☺

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