• Altitude;
  • ecosystem;
  • latitude;
  • MODIS;
  • NPP/GPP ratio;
  • precipitation;
  • temperature


Aim  To examine the global pattern of the net primary production (NPP)/gross primary production (GPP) ratio of the Earth's land area along geographical and climatic gradients.

Location  The global planetary ecosystem.

Methods  The 4-year average annual NPP/GPP ratio of the Earth's land area was calculated using 2000–03 Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data. The global pattern of the NPP/GPP ratio was investigated by comparing it among each typical terrestrial ecosystem and plotting it along a geographical and climatic gradient, including latitude, altitude, temperature and precipitation.

Results  The global terrestrial ecosystem had an average NPP/GPP ratio value of 0.52 with minor variation from 2000 to 2003. However, the NPP/GPP ratio showed considerable spatial variation associated with ecosystem type, geographical location and climate. Densely vegetated ecosystems had a lower NPP/GPP ratio than sparsely vegetated ecosystems. Forest ecosystems had a lower NPP/GPP ratio than shrub and herbaceous ecosystems. Geographically, the NPP/GPP ratio increased with altitude. In the Southern Hemisphere, the NPP/GPP ratio decreased along latitude from 30° to 10° and it exhibited high fluctuation in the Northern Hemisphere. Climatically, the NPP/GPP ratio exhibited a decreasing trend along enhanced precipitation when it was less than 2300 mm year−1 and a static trend when the annual precipitation was over 2300 mm. The NPP/GPP ratio showed a decreasing trend along temperature when it was between –20 °C and 10 °C, and showed an increasing trend along rising temperature when it was between –10 °C and 20 °C. Within each ecosystem, the NPP/GPP ratio revealed a similar trend to the global trend along temperature and precipitation.

Conclusions  The NPP/GPP ratio exhibited a pattern depending on the main climatic characteristics such as temperature and precipitation and geographical factors such as latitude and altitude. The findings of this research challenge the widely held assumption that the NPP/GPP ratio is consistent regardless of ecosystem type.