Global Biogeochemical Cycles

Influence of carbon-nitrogen cycle coupling on land model response to CO2 fertilization and climate variability



[1] Nutrient cycling affects carbon uptake by the terrestrial biosphere and imposes controls on carbon cycle response to variation in temperature and precipitation, but nutrient cycling is ignored in most global coupled models of the carbon cycle and climate system. We demonstrate here that the inclusion of nutrient cycle dynamics, specifically the close coupling between carbon and nitrogen cycles, in a terrestrial biogeochemistry component of a global coupled climate system model leads to fundamentally altered behavior for several of the most critical feedback mechanisms operating between the land biosphere and the global climate system. Carbon-nitrogen cycle coupling reduces the simulated global terrestrial carbon uptake response to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration by 74%, relative to a carbon-only counterpart model. Global integrated responses of net land carbon exchange to variation in temperature and precipitation are significantly damped by carbon-nitrogen cycle coupling. The carbon cycle responses to temperature and precipitation variation are reduced in magnitude as atmospheric CO2 concentration rises for the coupled carbon-nitrogen model, but increase in magnitude for the carbon-only counterpart. Our results suggest that previous carbon-only treatments of climate-carbon cycle coupling likely overestimate the terrestrial biosphere's capacity to ameliorate atmospheric CO2 increases through direct fertilization. The next generation of coupled climate-biogeochemistry model projections for future atmospheric CO2 concentration and climate change should include explicit, prognostic treatment of terrestrial carbon-nitrogen cycle coupling.