[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The effects of elevated CO2 on nutrient cycling and selected belowground processes in the closed-canopy sweetgum plantation were assessed as part of a free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiment at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We hypothesized that nitrogen (N) constraints to growth response to elevated CO2 would be mitigated primarily by reduced tissue concentrations (resulting in increased biomass production per unit uptake) rather than increased uptake. Conversely, we hypothesized that the constraints of other nutrients to growth response to elevated CO2 would be mitigated primarily by increased uptake because of adequate soil supplies. The first hypothesis was not supported: although elevated CO2 caused reduced foliar N concentrations, it also resulted in increased uptake and requirement of N, primarily because of greater root turnover. The additional N uptake with elevated CO2 constituted between 10 and 40% of the estimated soil mineralizeable N pool. The second hypothesis was largely supported: elevated CO2 had no significant effects on tissue concentrations of P, K, Ca, or Mg and caused significantly increased uptake and requirement of K, Ca, and Mg. Soil exchangeable pools of these nutrients are large and should pose no constraint to continued growth responses. Elevated CO2 also caused increased microbial biomass, reduced N leaching and increased P leaching from O horizons (measured by resin lysimeters), reduced soil solution NH
42−, and Ca2+ concentrations, and increased soil solution pH. There were no statistically significant treatment effects on soil nutrient availability as measured by resin capsules, resin stakes, or in situ incubations. Despite significantly lower litterfall N concentrations in the elevated CO2 treatment, there were no significant treatment effects on translocation or forest floor biomass or nutrient contents. There were also no significant treatment effects on the rate of decomposition of fine roots. In general, the effects of elevated CO2 on nutrient cycling in this study were not large; future constraints on growth responses imposed by N limitations will depend on changes in N demand, atmospheric N deposition, and soil mineralization rates.