Global distribution of C3 and C4 vegetation: Carbon cycle implications



[1] The global distribution of C3 and C4 plants is required for accurately simulating exchanges of CO2, water, and energy between the land surface and atmosphere. It is also important to know the C3/C4 distribution for simulations of the carbon isotope composition of atmospheric CO2 owing to the distinct fractionations displayed by each photosynthetic type. Large areas of the land surface are spatial and temporal mosaics of both photosynthetic types. We developed an approach for capturing this heterogeneity by combining remote sensing products, physiological modeling, a spatial distribution of global crop fractions, and national harvest area data for major crop types. Our C3/C4 distribution predicts the global coverage of C4 vegetation to be 18.8 million km2, while C3 vegetation covers 87.4 million km2. We incorporated our distribution into the SiB2 model and simulated carbon fluxes for each photosynthetic type. The gross primary production (GPP) of C4 plants is 35.3 Pg C yr−1, or ∼23% of total GPP, while that of C3 plants is 114.7 Pg C yr−1. The assimilation-weighted terrestrial discrimination against 13CO2 is −16.5‰. If the terrestrial component of the carbon sink is proportional to GPP, this implies a net uptake of 2.4 Pg C yr−1 on land and 1.4 Pg C yr−1 in the ocean using a 13C budgeting approach and average carbon cycle parameter values for the 1990s. We also simulated the biomass of each photosynthetic type using the CASA model. The simulated biomass values of C3 and C4 vegetation are 389.3 and 18.6 Pg C, respectively.