Global nutrient limitation in terrestrial vegetation
Article first published online: 3 AUG 2012
©2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Global Biogeochemical Cycles
Volume 26, Issue 3, September 2012
How to Cite
2012), Global nutrient limitation in terrestrial vegetation, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 26, GB3007, doi:10.1029/2011GB004252., , and (
- Issue published online: 3 AUG 2012
- Article first published online: 3 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 5 JUL 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 6 JUN 2012
- Manuscript Received: 7 NOV 2011
- remote sensing;
 Most vegetation is limited in productivity by nutrient availability, but the magnitude of limitation globally is not known. Nutrient limitation is directly relevant not only to ecology and agriculture, but also to the global carbon cycle by regulating how much atmospheric CO2the terrestrial biosphere can sequester. We attempt to identify total nutrient limitation in terrestrial plant productivity globally using ecophysiological theory and new developments in remote sensing for evapotranspiration and plant productivity. Our map of nutrient limitation qualitatively reproduces known regional nutrient gradients (e.g., across Amazonia), highlights differences in nutrient addition to croplands (e.g., between “developed” and “developing” countries), identifies the role of nutrients on the distribution of major biomes (e.g., tree line migration in boreal North America), and compares similarly to a ground-based test along the Long Substrate Age Gradient in Hawaii, U.S.A. (e.g., foliar and soil nutrients, litter decomposition). Nonetheless, challenges in representing light and water use efficiencies, disturbance, and comparison to ground data with multiple interacting nutrients provide avenues for further progress on refining such a global map. Global average reduction in terrestrial plant productivity was within 16–28%, depending on treatment of disturbance; these values can be compared to global carbon cycle model estimates of carbon uptake reduction with nutrient cycle inclusion.