Drought and nitrogen load do more damage to nature together

Hans Cornelissen, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

More and more we see trees in NW Europe struggling with the effects of drought. Most native species have some natural degree of tolerance to drought, at least when growing in soils that do not have an overload of nitrogen. The widespread persistent high levels of nitrogen in the forest soil, because of agricultural, industrial and transport activities, have made trees “lazy”: they invest relatively less in root growth for taking up nitrogen and more in leaves for growing faster. The small root systems are turning out to be more sensitive to drought, leading to increasing loss of vitality and increasing tree death in NW Europe.

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