Forests with high-nutrient availability use 58 ± 3% (mean ± SE; 17 forests) of their photosynthates for plant biomass production (BP), while forests with low-nutrient availability only convert 42 ± 2% (mean ± SE; 19 forests) of annual photosynthates to biomass. This nutrient effect largely overshadows previously observed differences in carbon allocation patterns among climate zones, forest types and age classes.

If forests with low-nutrient availability use 16 ± 4% less of their photosynthates for plant growth, what are these used for? Current knowledge suggests that lower BP per unit photosynthesis in forests with low- versus forests with high-nutrient availability reflects not merely an increase in plant respiration, but likely results from reduced carbon allocation to unaccounted components of net primary production, particularly root symbionts.

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