Above-ground tree carbon storage in response to nitrogen deposition in the US is heterogeneous and may have weakened
Long-term nitrogen deposition may not provide sustained stimulation of tree carbon storage, suggest analyses of a tree inventory and growth for the contiguous US between 2000 and 2016, compared to data for the 1980s and 1990s. Changes in nitrogen (N) availability affect the ability for forest ecosystems to store carbon (C). Here we extend an analysis of the growth and survival of 94 tree species and 1.2 million trees, to estimate the incremental effects of N deposition on changes in aboveground C (dC/dN) across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS). We find that although the average effect of N deposition on aboveground C is positive for the CONUS (dC/dN = +9 kg C per kg N), there is wide variation among species and regions. Furthermore, in the Northeastern U.S. where we may compare responses from 2000-2016 with those from the 1980s-90s, we find the recent estimate of dC/dN is weaker than from the 1980s-90s due to species-level changes in responses to N deposition. This suggests that the U.S. forest C-sink varies widely across forests and may be weakening overall, possibly necessitating more aggressive climate policies than originally thought.