Latitudinal patterns of magnitude and interannual variability in net ecosystem exchange regulated by biological and environmental variables


Wenping Yuan, tel. +1 605 594 6526, e-mail:


Over the last two and half decades, strong evidence showed that the terrestrial ecosystems are acting as a net sink for atmospheric carbon. However the spatial and temporal patterns of variation in the sink are not well known. In this study, we examined latitudinal patterns of interannual variability (IAV) in net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 based on 163 site-years of eddy covariance data, from 39 northern-hemisphere research sites located at latitudes ranging from ∼29°N to ∼64°N. We computed the standard deviation of annual NEE integrals at individual sites to represent absolute interannual variability (AIAV), and the corresponding coefficient of variation as a measure of relative interannual variability (RIAV). Our results showed decreased trends of annual NEE with increasing latitude for both deciduous broadleaf forests and evergreen needleleaf forests. Gross primary production (GPP) explained a significant proportion of the spatial variation of NEE across evergreen needleleaf forests, whereas, across deciduous broadleaf forests, it is ecosystem respiration (Re). In addition, AIAV in GPP and Re increased significantly with latitude in deciduous broadleaf forests, but AIAV in GPP decreased significantly with latitude in evergreen needleleaf forests. Furthermore, RIAV in NEE, GPP, and Re appeared to increase significantly with latitude in deciduous broadleaf forests, but not in evergreen needleleaf forests. Correlation analyses showed air temperature was the primary environmental factor that determined RIAV of NEE in deciduous broadleaf forest across the North American sites, and none of the chosen climatic factors could explain RIAV of NEE in evergreen needleleaf forests. Mean annual NEE significantly increased with latitude in grasslands. Precipitation was dominant environmental factor for the spatial variation of magnitude and IAV in GPP and Re in grasslands.