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Climate-driven shifts in continental net primary production implicated as a driver of a recent abrupt increase in the land carbon sink

Climate-driven shifts in continental net primary production implicated as a driver of a recent abrupt increase in the land carbon sink
Climate-driven shifts in continental net primary production implicated as a driver of a recent abrupt increase in the land carbon sink
The world's ocean and land ecosystems act as sinks for anthropogenic CO2, and over the last half century their combined sink strength grew steadily with increasing CO2 emissions. Recent analyses of the global carbon budget, however, have uncovered an abrupt, substantial (????1?PgC?yr?1) and sustained increase in the land sink in the late 1980s whose origin remains unclear. In the absence of this prominent shift in the land sink, increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the late 1980s would have been ????30?% larger than observed (or ????12?ppm above current levels). Global data analyses are limited in regards to attributing causes to changes in the land sink because different regions are likely responding to different drivers. Here, we address this challenge by using terrestrial biosphere models constrained by observations to determine if there is independent evidence for the abrupt strengthening of the land sink. We find that net primary production significantly increased in the late 1980s (more so than heterotrophic respiration), consistent with the inferred increase in the global land sink, and that large-scale climate anomalies are responsible for this shift. We identify two key regions in which climatic constraints on plant growth have eased: northern Eurasia experienced warming, and northern Africa received increased precipitation. Whether these changes in continental climates are connected is uncertain, but North Atlantic climate variability is important. Our findings suggest that improved understanding of climate variability in the North Atlantic may be essential for more credible projections of the land sink under climate change.
1726-4170
1597-1607
Buermann, Wolfgang
60b5a7d0-7393-49c4-8c3f-3cf8a91869ea
Beaulieu, Claudie
13ae2c11-ebfe-48d9-bda9-122cd013c021
Parida, Bikash
3be9cfc2-17b7-4157-b2d3-139c177394cc
Medvigy, David
9059193e-83e8-4727-9e57-eebe0ed4bfd8
Collatz, George J.
77d1c6de-4b44-4e79-b518-5725d9845305
Sheffield, Justin
64845394-e70c-42d6-87d3-dd15f0ad4bf1
Sarmiento, Jorge L.
45f5964b-15e6-43e8-bdd4-8789e2eb87cb
Buermann, Wolfgang
60b5a7d0-7393-49c4-8c3f-3cf8a91869ea
Beaulieu, Claudie
13ae2c11-ebfe-48d9-bda9-122cd013c021
Parida, Bikash
3be9cfc2-17b7-4157-b2d3-139c177394cc
Medvigy, David
9059193e-83e8-4727-9e57-eebe0ed4bfd8
Collatz, George J.
77d1c6de-4b44-4e79-b518-5725d9845305
Sheffield, Justin
64845394-e70c-42d6-87d3-dd15f0ad4bf1
Sarmiento, Jorge L.
45f5964b-15e6-43e8-bdd4-8789e2eb87cb

Buermann, Wolfgang, Beaulieu, Claudie, Parida, Bikash, Medvigy, David, Collatz, George J., Sheffield, Justin and Sarmiento, Jorge L. (2016) Climate-driven shifts in continental net primary production implicated as a driver of a recent abrupt increase in the land carbon sink. Biogeosciences, 13 (5), 1597-1607. (doi:10.5194/bg-13-1597-2016).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The world's ocean and land ecosystems act as sinks for anthropogenic CO2, and over the last half century their combined sink strength grew steadily with increasing CO2 emissions. Recent analyses of the global carbon budget, however, have uncovered an abrupt, substantial (????1?PgC?yr?1) and sustained increase in the land sink in the late 1980s whose origin remains unclear. In the absence of this prominent shift in the land sink, increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the late 1980s would have been ????30?% larger than observed (or ????12?ppm above current levels). Global data analyses are limited in regards to attributing causes to changes in the land sink because different regions are likely responding to different drivers. Here, we address this challenge by using terrestrial biosphere models constrained by observations to determine if there is independent evidence for the abrupt strengthening of the land sink. We find that net primary production significantly increased in the late 1980s (more so than heterotrophic respiration), consistent with the inferred increase in the global land sink, and that large-scale climate anomalies are responsible for this shift. We identify two key regions in which climatic constraints on plant growth have eased: northern Eurasia experienced warming, and northern Africa received increased precipitation. Whether these changes in continental climates are connected is uncertain, but North Atlantic climate variability is important. Our findings suggest that improved understanding of climate variability in the North Atlantic may be essential for more credible projections of the land sink under climate change.

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Accepted/In Press date: 25 February 2016
Published date: 15 March 2016
Organisations: Physical Oceanography

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 390815
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/390815
ISSN: 1726-4170
PURE UUID: ef4ca606-71ac-4b01-9c10-f714b8a079fa

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Date deposited: 05 Apr 2016 09:28
Last modified: 09 Jan 2018 18:12

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