Influence of Geoengineered Climate on the Terrestrial Biosphere

Vaishali Naik, Donald J. Wuebbles, Evan H. Delucia, Jonathan A. Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Various geoengineering schemes have been proposed to counteract anthropogenically induced climate change. In a previous study, it was suggested that a 1.8% reduction in solar radiation incident on the Earth's surface could noticeably reduce regional and seasonal climate change from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). However, the response of the terrestrial biosphere to reduced solar radiation in a CO2-rich climate was not investigated. In this study, we hypothesized that a reduction in incident solar radiation in a Doubled CO2 atmosphere will diminish the net primary productivity (NPP) of terrestrial ecosystems, potentially accelerating the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. We used a dynamic global ecosystem model, the Integrated Biosphere Simulator (IBIS), to investigate this hypothesis in an unperturbed climatology. While this simplified modeling framework effectively separated the influence of CO2 and sunlight on the terrestrial biosphere, it did not consider the complex feedbacks within the Earth's climate system. Our analysis indicated that compared to a Doubled CO2 scenario, reduction in incident solar radiation by 1.8% in a double CO2 world will have negligible impact on the NPP of terrestrial ecosystems. There were, however, spatial variations in the response of NPP-engineered solar radiation. While productivity decreased by less than 2% in the tropical and boreal forests as hypothesized, it increased by a similar percentage in the temperate deciduous forests and grasslands. This increase in productivity was attributed to a ∼1% reduction in evapotranspiration in the Geoengineered scenario relative to the Doubled CO2 scenario. Our initial hypothesis was rejected because of unanticipated effects of engineered solar radiation on the hydrologic cycle. However, any geoengineering approaches that reduce incident solar radiation need to be thoroughly analyzed in view of the implications on ecosystem productivity and the hydrologic cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-381
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Climate change
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Geoengineering
  • Net primary productivity
  • Solar radiation
  • Terrestrial Biosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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