Climate-Driven Variability and Trends in Plant Productivity Over Recent Decades Based on Three Global Products

Michael O'Sullivan, William K. Smith, Stephen Sitch, Pierre Friedlingstein, Vivek K. Arora, Vanessa Haverd, Atul K. Jain, Etsushi Kato, Markus Kautz, Danica Lombardozzi, Julia E.M.S. Nabel, Hanqin Tian, Nicolas Vuichard, Andy Wiltshire, Dan Zhu, Wolfgang Buermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variability in climate exerts a strong influence on vegetation productivity (gross primary productivity; GPP), and therefore has a large impact on the land carbon sink. However, no direct observations of global GPP exist, and estimates rely on models that are constrained by observations at various spatial and temporal scales. Here, we assess the consistency in GPP from global products which extend for more than three decades; two observation-based approaches, the upscaling of FLUXNET site observations (FLUXCOM) and a remote sensing derived light use efficiency model (RS-LUE), and from a suite of terrestrial biosphere models (TRENDYv6). At local scales, we find high correlations in annual GPP among the products, with exceptions in tropical and high northern latitudes. On longer time scales, the products agree on the direction of trends over 58% of the land, with large increases across northern latitudes driven by warming trends. Further, tropical regions exhibit the largest interannual variability in GPP, with both rainforests and savannas contributing substantially. Variability in savanna GPP is likely predominantly driven by water availability, although temperature could play a role via soil moisture-atmosphere feedbacks. There is, however, no consensus on the magnitude and driver of variability of tropical forests, which suggest uncertainties in process representations and underlying observations remain. These results emphasize the need for more direct long-term observations of GPP along with an extension of in situ networks in underrepresented regions (e.g., tropical forests). Such capabilities would support efforts to better validate relevant processes in models, to more accurately estimate GPP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020GB006613
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • carbon
  • climate
  • gross primary productivity
  • interannual variability
  • trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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