Vegetation dynamics and plant CO2 responses as positive feedbacks in a greenhouse world

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Abstract

[1] An atmosphere-ocean-vegetation coupled model is used to quantify the biogeophysical feedback that emerges as vegetation adjusts dynamically to a quadrupling of atmospheric CO2. This feedback amplifies global warming by 13%. About half of it is due to climatically induced expansion of boreal forest into tundra, reinforced by reductions in snow and sea ice cover. The other half represents a global climatic effect of increased vegetative cover (an indirect consequence of plant physiological responses to CO2) in the semi-arid subtropics. Enhanced absorption of shortwave radiation in these regions produces a net surface warming, which the atmosphere communicates poleward. The greatest vegetation-induced warming is co-located with large, vulnerable carbon stores in the north. These lose carbon, so that in the long term, the biospheric response to CO2 and climate change becomes dominated by positive feedbacks that overwhelm the effect of CO2 fertilization on terrestrial carbon stocks.

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