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[1] We used a new 17-year, high spatial resolution satellite record and a carbon cycle model to explore how changing net primary productivity (NPP) contributed to a proposed carbon (C) sink in North America. We found a small but significant increase in NPP, 0.03 Pg C yr−2 or 8% over 17 years, that could explain a substantial fraction of the C sink. The largest increases occurred in the central and southeastern United States, eastern Canada, and northwestern North America, and were consistent with NPP trends derived from forest inventories and crop yields. Interannual NPP variability was small, implying that the large interannual variability in the C sink found in previous studies were driven by changes in heterotrophic respiration.