Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation responses to future climate and atmospheric CO2

Andrew D. Friend*, Wolfgang Lucht, Tim T. Rademacher, Rozenn Keribin, Richard Betts, Patricia Cadule, Philippe Ciais, Douglas B. Clark, Rutger Dankers, Pete D. Falloon, Akihiko Ito, Ron Kahana, Axel Kleidon, Mark R. Lomas, Kazuya Nishina, Sebastian Ostberg, Ryan Pavlick, Philippe Peylin, Sibyll Schaphoff, Nicolas VuichardLila Warszawski, Andy Wiltshire, F.I. Woodward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

272 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Future climate change and increasing atmospheric CO2 are expected to cause major changes in vegetation structure and function over large fractions of the global land surface. Seven global vegetation models are used to analyze possible responses to future climate simulated by a range of general circulation models run under all four representative concentration pathway scenarios of changing concentrations of greenhouse gases. All 110 simulations predict an increase in global vegetation carbon to 2100, but with substantial variation between vegetation models. For example, at 4 °C of global land surface warming (510-758 ppm of CO2), vegetation carbon increases by 52-477 Pg C (224 Pg C mean), mainly due to CO2 fertilization of photosynthesis. Simulations agree on large regional increases across much of the boreal forest, western Amazonia, central Africa, western China, and southeast Asia, with reductions across southwestern North America, central South America, southern Mediterranean areas, southwestern Africa, and southwestern Australia. Four vegetation models display discontinuities across 4 °C of warming, indicating global thresholds in the balance of positive and negative influences on productivity and biomass. In contrast to previous global vegetation model studies, we emphasize the importance of uncertainties in projected changes in carbon residence times. We find, when all seven models are considered for one representative concentration pathway × general circulation model combination, such uncertainties explain 30% more variation in modeled vegetation carbon change than responses of net primary productivity alone, increasing to 151% for non-HYBRID4 models. A change in research priorities away from production and toward structural dynamics and demographic processes is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3280-3285
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume111
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • DGVM
  • GVM
  • ISI-MIP
  • NPP
  • Turnover

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    Friend, A. D., Lucht, W., Rademacher, T. T., Keribin, R., Betts, R., Cadule, P., Ciais, P., Clark, D. B., Dankers, R., Falloon, P. D., Ito, A., Kahana, R., Kleidon, A., Lomas, M. R., Nishina, K., Ostberg, S., Pavlick, R., Peylin, P., Schaphoff, S., ... Woodward, F. I. (2014). Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation responses to future climate and atmospheric CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(9), 3280-3285. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222477110