Potential effects of interaction between CO2 and temperature on forest landscape response to global warming

Chonggang Xu, George Z. Gertner, Robert M. Scheller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Projected temperature increases under global warming could benefit southern tree species by providing them the optimal growing temperature and could be detrimental to northern species by exposing them to the supra optimal growing temperatures. This benefit-detriment trade-off could increase the competitive advantage of southern species in the northern species range and cause the increase or even dominance of southern species in the northern domain. However, the optimum temperature for photosynthesis of C3 plants may increase due to CO2 enrichment. An increase in the optimum temperature could greatly reduce the benefit-detriment effect. In this study, we coupled a forest ecosystem process model (PnET-II) and a forest GAP model (LINKAGES) with a spatially dynamic forest landscape model (LANDIS-II) to study how an optimum temperature increase could affect forest landscape response due to global warming. We simulated 360 years of forest landscape change in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota, which is transitional between boreal and temperate forest. Our results showed that, under the control scenario of continuing the historic 1984-1993 mean climate (mainly temperature, precipitation and CO2), the BWCA will become a spruce-fir dominated boreal forest. However, under the scenario of predicted climatic change [the 2000-2099 climates are predicted by Canadian Climate Center (CCC), followed by 200 years of continuing the predicted 2090-2099 mean climate], the BWCA will become a pine-dominated mixed forest. If the optimum temperature increases gradually with [CO2] (the increase in optimum temperature is assumed to change gradually from 0°C in year 2000 to 5°C in year 2099 when [CO2] reaches 711 ppm and stabilizes at 5°C after year 2099), the BWCA would remain a fir-dominated boreal forest in areas with relatively high water-holding capacity, but not in areas with relatively low water-holding capacity. Our results suggest that the [CO2] induced increases in optimum temperature could substantially reduce forest landscape change caused by global warming. However, not all tree species would be able to successfully adapt to future warming as predicted by CCC, regardless of optimum temperature acclimations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1469-1483
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007


  • Boundary water canoe area
  • CO enrichment
  • Global warming
  • Optimum photosynthetic temperature
  • PnET-II

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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