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Keywords:

  • carbon storage;
  • climate change;
  • net ecosystem production;
  • net primary production;
  • terrestrial ecosystems

Abstract

Evaluating the role of terrestrial ecosystems in the global carbon cycle requires a detailed understanding of carbon exchange between vegetation, soil, and the atmosphere. Global climatic change may modify the net carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems, causing feedbacks on atmospheric CO2 and climate. We describe a model for investigating terrestrial carbon exchange and its response to climatic variation based on the processes of plant photosynthesis, carbon allocation, litter production, and soil organic carbon decomposition. The model is used to produce geographical patterns of net primary production (NPP), carbon stocks in vegetation and soils, and the seasonal variations in net ecosystem production (NEP) under both contemporary and future climates. For contemporary climate, the estimated global NPP is 57.0 Gt C y–1, carbon stocks in vegetation and soils are 640 Gt C and 1358 Gt C, respectively, and NEP varies from –0.5 Gt C in October to 1.6 Gt C in July. For a doubled atmospheric CO2 concentration and the corresponding climate, we predict that global NPP will rise to 69.6 Gt C y–1, carbon stocks in vegetation and soils will increase by, respectively, 133 Gt C and 160 Gt C, and the seasonal amplitude of NEP will increase by 76%. A doubling of atmospheric CO2 without climate change may enhance NPP by 25% and result in a substantial increase in carbon stocks in vegetation and soils. Climate change without CO2 elevation will reduce the global NPP and soil carbon stocks, but leads to an increase in vegetation carbon because of a forest extension and NPP enhancement in the north. By combining the effects of CO2 doubling, climate change, and the consequent redistribution of vegetation, we predict a strong enhancement in NPP and carbon stocks of terrestrial ecosystems. This study simulates the possible variation in the carbon exchange at equilibrium state. We anticipate to investigate the dynamic responses in the carbon exchange to atmospheric CO2 elevation and climate change in the past and future.