Coupled effects of atmospheric CO2 concentration and nutrients on plant-induced soil suction

  • Charles Wang Wai Ng
  • Rafa TasnimEmail author
  • James Tsz Fung Wong
Regular Article


Background and aim

Some studies have shown that an increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration reduces plant transpiration while others have demonstrated that it interacts with nutrients in soil to enhance plant transpiration and plant growth including an increase in leaf area. However, none of these studies has focused on plant-induced suction in vegetated soils. The objective of this study is to quantify transpiration induced soil suction by Schefflera heptaphylla in NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) nutrient supplied, heavily compacted silty sand under two different atmospheric CO2 concentrations (400 ppm and 1000 ppm).


Three replicates of the plant were grown in NPK nutrient supplied silty sand and their plant characteristics and soil matric suction were measured under 400 and 1000 ppm atmospheric CO2 for three months.


Due to the supply of nitrogen-rich nutrient in silty sand, leaf area index (LAI) of plant increased by 22% under 1000 ppm CO2 compared to 400 ppm CO2. Thus, the larger LAI induced higher soil suction substantially since no significant difference in soil suction was found between current and elevated atmospheric CO2. LAI of Schefflera heptaphylla could be a reliable parameter to understand and predict soil suction as verified by strong correlation coefficient (R2 = 0.85–0.98; P value < 0.1) of peak induced suction and atmospheric CO2 concentration.


This study reveals that the use of vegetation in soil structures needs proper management with additional supply of nutrients to thrive under future atmospheric condition and to induce suction hence improve shear strength in vegetated soil structures.


Atmospheric CO2 Soil nutrients Suction Leaf area index Correlation 

List of symbols


grain diameter at 10% passing


grain diameter at 30% passing


grain diameter at 60% passing


international Panel of Climate Change


leaf area index


root area index


nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium


parts per million

mo, yo

fitting coefficients



The authors would like to acknowledge the National Natural Science Foundation of China for grant 51778166, the 973-project scheme for grant 2012CB719805 and the Research Grants Council of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR for grant HKUST6/CRF/12R.


  1. ASTM (2010) Standard practice for classification of soils for engineering purposes (unified soil classification system). American Society for Testing and Materials, West ConshohockenGoogle Scholar
  2. Bazzaz FA (1990) The response of natural ecosystems to the rising global CO2 levels. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 21(1):167–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boldrin D, Leung AK, Bengough AG (2017) Correlating hydrologic reinforcement of vegetated soil with plant traits during establishment of woody perennials. Plant Soil 410:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bucher-Wallin IK, Sonnleitner MA, Egli P, Gunthardt-Goerg MS, Tarjan D, Schulin R, Bucher JB (2000) Effects of elevated CO2, increased nitrogen deposition and soil on evapo-transpiration and water use efficiency of spruce-beech model ecosystems. Phyton 40:49–60Google Scholar
  5. Centritto M, Magnani F, Lee HS, Jarvis PG (1999) Interactive effects of elevated [CO2] and drought on cherry (Prunus avium) seedlings II. Photosynthetic capacity and water relations. New Phytol 141(1):141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Graaff MA, Van Groenigen KJ, Six J, Hungate B, van Kessel C (2006) Interactions between plant growth and soil nutrient cycling under elevated CO2: a meta-analysis. Glob Chang Biol 12(11):2077–2091CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dlugokencky E, Tans P (2018) NOAA/ESRL. (accessed 10 May 2018)
  8. Dong-Xiu W, Gen-Xuan W, Yong-Fei B, Jian-Xiong L, Hong-Xu R (2002) Response of growth and water use efficiency of spring wheat to whole season CO2 enrichment and drought. Acta Bot Sin 44:1477–1483Google Scholar
  9. Dugas WA, Polley HW, Mayeux HS, Johnson HB (2001) Acclimation of whole-plant Acacia farnesiana transpiration to carbon dioxide concentration. Tree Physiol 21:771–773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fourcaud T, Zhang X, Stokes A, Lambers H, Korner C (2008) Plant growth modelling and applications: the increasing importance of plant architecture in growth models. Ann Bot 101:1053–1063CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Francour P, Semroud R (1992) Calculation for the root area index in Posidonia oceanica in the Western Mediterranean. Aquat Bot 42(3):281–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Garg A, Leung AK, Ng CWW (2015) Comparisons of soil suction induced by evapo-transpiration and transpiration of Schefflera heptaphylla. Can Geotech J 52(12):2149–2155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gates DM (1980) Biophysical ecology. Springer-Verlag, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. GEO (Geotechnical Engineering Office) (2011) Technical guidelines on landscape treatment for slopes. Geotechnical Engineering Office, Hong Kong, ChinaGoogle Scholar
  15. Hak R, Rinderle-Zimmer U, Lichtenthaler HK, Natr L (1993) Chlorophyll a fluorescence signatures of nitrogen deficient barley leaves. Photosynthetica 28:151–159Google Scholar
  16. Hau BCH, Corlett RT (2003) Factors affecting the early survival and growth of native tree seedlings planted on a degraded hillside grassland in Hong Kong, China. Restor Ecol 11(4):483–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. IPCC (2013). Climate change 2013. The physical science basis contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change 1535Google Scholar
  18. Jarvis PG (1976) The interpretation of the variations in leaf water potential and stomatal conductance found in canopies in the field. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 273(927):593–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Keenan TF, Hollinger DY, Bohrer G, Dragoni D, Munger JW, Schmid HP, Richardson AD (2013) Increase in forest water-use efficiency as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise. Nature 499(7458):324–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kelliher FM, Leuning R, Raupach MR, Schulze ED (1995) Maximum conductances for evaporation from global vegetation types. Agric For Meteorol 73:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leung AK, Garg A, Ng CWW (2015) Effects of plant roots on soil-water retention and induced suction in vegetated soil. Eng Geol 193:183–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McElrone AJ, Choat B, Gambetta GA, Brodersen CR (2013) Water uptake and transport in vascular plants. Nature Education Knowledge 4(5):6Google Scholar
  23. Morgan JB, Connolly EL (2013) Plant-soil interactions: nutrient uptake. Nature Education Knowledge 4(8):2Google Scholar
  24. Ng CWW, Leung AK (2012) Measurements of drying and wetting permeability functions using a new stress-controllable soil column. J Geotech Geoenviron 138:58–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ng CWW, Menzies B (2007) Advanced unsaturated soil mechanics and engineering. Taylor and Francis, USAGoogle Scholar
  26. Ng CWW, Leung AK, Woon KX (2014) Effects of soil density on grass-induced suction distributions in compacted soil subjected to rainfall. Can Geotech J 51(3):311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ng CWW, Garg A, Leung AK, Hau BCH (2016) Relationships between leaf and root area indices and soil suction induced during drying–wetting cycles. Ecol Eng 91:113–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ng CWW, Tasnim R, Capobianco V, Coo JL (2018a) Influence of soil nutrients on plant characteristics and soil hydrological responses. Géotechnique Letters 8(1):19–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ng CWW, Tasnim R, Coo JL (2018b) Effects of atmospheric CO2 concentration on soil-water retention and induced suction in vegetated soil. Eng Geol 242:108–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Norby RJ, Pastor J, Melillo JM (1986) Carbon-nitrogen interactions in CO2-enriched white oak; physiological and long-term perspectives. Tree Physiol 2:233–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oberbauer SF, Sionit N, Hastings SJ, Oechel WC (1986) Effects of CO2 enrichment and nutrition on growth, photosynthesis, and nutrient concentration of Alaskan tundra plant species. Can J Bot 64(12):2993–2998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pataki DE, Oren R, Tissue DT (1998) Elevated carbon dioxide does not affect average canopy stomatal conductance of Pinus taeda L. Oecologia 117:47–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Prior SA, Runion GB, Marble SC, Rogers HH, Gilliam CH, Torbert HA (2011) A review of elevated atmospheric CO2 effects on plant growth and water relations: implications for horticulture. HortScience 46(2):158–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Reef R, Slot M, Motro U, Motro M, Motro Y, Adame MF, Garcia M, Aranda J, Lovelock CE, Winter K (2016) The effects of CO2 and nutrient fertilisation on the growth and temperature response of the mangrove Avicennia germinans. Photosynth Res 129(2):159–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rogers HH, Peterson CM, McCrimmon JN, Cure JD (1992) Response of plant roots to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. Plant Cell Environ 15(6):749–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rogers HH, Prior SA, Runion GB, Mitchell RJ (1996) Root to shoot ratio of crops as influenced by CO2. Plant Soil 187:229–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenkrantz WA (2009) Introduction to probability and statistics for science, engineering, and finance. Taylor & Francis Group, FloridaGoogle Scholar
  38. Runion GB, Mitchell RJ, Green TH, Prior SA, Rogers HH, Gjerstad DH (1999) Longleaf pine photosynthetic response to soil resource availability and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. J Environ Qual 28:880–887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. SPSS 20 (2011) Statistical analysis software (standard version). SPSS Inc.Google Scholar
  40. Standing Inter-Departmental Landscape Technical Group, Hong Kong (SILTech) (1991) Tree Planting and Maintenance in Hong KongGoogle Scholar
  41. Tingey DT, Johnson MG, Phillips DL, Johnson DW, Ball JT (1996) Effects of elevated CO2 and nitrogen on the synchrony of shoot and root growth in ponderosa pine. Tree Physiol 16:905–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tukey JW (1949) Comparing individual means in the analysis of variance. Biometrics 5(2):99–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Watson DJ (1947) Comparative physiological studies on the growth of field crops: I. Variation in net assimilation rate and leaf area between species and varieties and within and between years. Ann Bot 11(1):41–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wullschleger SD, Norby RJ (2001) Sap velocity and canopy transpiration in a sweetgum stand exposed to free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE). New Phytol 150:489–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Wang Wai Ng
    • 1
  • Rafa Tasnim
    • 1
    Email author
  • James Tsz Fung Wong
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringHong Kong University of Science and TechnologyKowloonHong Kong

Personalised recommendations