The growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations since industrialization is characterized by large interannual variability, mostly resulting from variability in CO2 uptake by terrestrial ecosystems (typically termed carbon sink). However, the contributions of regional ecosystems to that variability are not well known. Using an ensemble of ecosystem and landsurface models and an empirical observation-based product of global gross primary production, we show that the mean sink, trend, and interannual variability in CO2 uptake by terrestrial ecosystems are dominated by distinct biogeographic regions. Whereas the mean sink is dominated by highly productive lands (mainly tropical forests), the trend and interannual variability of the sink are dominated by semi-arid ecosystems whose carbon balance is strongly associated with circulation-driven variations in both precipitation and temperature.
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