Widespread seasonal compensation effects of spring warming on northern plant productivity

Wolfgang Buermann, Matthias Forkel, Michael O’Sullivan, Stephen Sitch, Pierre Friedlingstein, Vanessa Haverd, Atul Jain, Etsushi Kato, Markus Kautz, Sebastian Lienert, Danica Lombardozzi, Julia E.M.S. Nabel, Hanqin Tian, Andrew J. Wiltshire, Dan Zhu, William K. Smith, Andrew D. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

Abstract

Climate change is shifting the phenological cycles of plants 1 , thereby altering the functioning of ecosystems, which in turn induces feedbacks to the climate system 2 . In northern (north of 30° N) ecosystems, warmer springs lead generally to an earlier onset of the growing season 3,4 and increased ecosystem productivity early in the season 5 . In situ 6 and regional 7–9 studies also provide evidence for lagged effects of spring warmth on plant productivity during the subsequent summer and autumn. However, our current understanding of these lagged effects, including their direction (beneficial or adverse) and geographic distribution, is still very limited. Here we analyse satellite, field-based and modelled data for the period 1982–2011 and show that there are widespread and contrasting lagged productivity responses to spring warmth across northern ecosystems. On the basis of the observational data, we find that roughly 15 per cent of the total study area of about 41 million square kilometres exhibits adverse lagged effects and that roughly 5 per cent of the total study area exhibits beneficial lagged effects. By contrast, current-generation terrestrial carbon-cycle models predict much lower areal fractions of adverse lagged effects (ranging from 1 to 14 per cent) and much higher areal fractions of beneficial lagged effects (ranging from 9 to 54 per cent). We find that elevation and seasonal precipitation patterns largely dictate the geographic pattern and direction of the lagged effects. Inadequate consideration in current models of the effects of the seasonal build-up of water stress on seasonal vegetation growth may therefore be able to explain the differences that we found between our observation-constrained estimates and the model-constrained estimates of lagged effects associated with spring warming. Overall, our results suggest that for many northern ecosystems the benefits of warmer springs on growing-season ecosystem productivity are effectively compensated for by the accumulation of seasonal water deficits, despite the fact that northern ecosystems are thought to be largely temperature- and radiation-limited 10 .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-114
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume562
Issue number7725
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 4 2018

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Ecosystem
Hot Springs
Carbon Cycle
Climate Change
Climate
Dehydration
Observation
Radiation
Temperature
Water
Growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Buermann, W., Forkel, M., O’Sullivan, M., Sitch, S., Friedlingstein, P., Haverd, V., ... Richardson, A. D. (2018). Widespread seasonal compensation effects of spring warming on northern plant productivity. Nature, 562(7725), 110-114. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0555-7

Widespread seasonal compensation effects of spring warming on northern plant productivity. / Buermann, Wolfgang; Forkel, Matthias; O’Sullivan, Michael; Sitch, Stephen; Friedlingstein, Pierre; Haverd, Vanessa; Jain, Atul; Kato, Etsushi; Kautz, Markus; Lienert, Sebastian; Lombardozzi, Danica; Nabel, Julia E.M.S.; Tian, Hanqin; Wiltshire, Andrew J.; Zhu, Dan; Smith, William K.; Richardson, Andrew D.

In: Nature, Vol. 562, No. 7725, 04.10.2018, p. 110-114.

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter

Buermann, W, Forkel, M, O’Sullivan, M, Sitch, S, Friedlingstein, P, Haverd, V, Jain, A, Kato, E, Kautz, M, Lienert, S, Lombardozzi, D, Nabel, JEMS, Tian, H, Wiltshire, AJ, Zhu, D, Smith, WK & Richardson, AD 2018, 'Widespread seasonal compensation effects of spring warming on northern plant productivity', Nature, vol. 562, no. 7725, pp. 110-114. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0555-7
Buermann W, Forkel M, O’Sullivan M, Sitch S, Friedlingstein P, Haverd V et al. Widespread seasonal compensation effects of spring warming on northern plant productivity. Nature. 2018 Oct 4;562(7725):110-114. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0555-7
Buermann, Wolfgang ; Forkel, Matthias ; O’Sullivan, Michael ; Sitch, Stephen ; Friedlingstein, Pierre ; Haverd, Vanessa ; Jain, Atul ; Kato, Etsushi ; Kautz, Markus ; Lienert, Sebastian ; Lombardozzi, Danica ; Nabel, Julia E.M.S. ; Tian, Hanqin ; Wiltshire, Andrew J. ; Zhu, Dan ; Smith, William K. ; Richardson, Andrew D. / Widespread seasonal compensation effects of spring warming on northern plant productivity. In: Nature. 2018 ; Vol. 562, No. 7725. pp. 110-114.
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abstract = "Climate change is shifting the phenological cycles of plants 1 , thereby altering the functioning of ecosystems, which in turn induces feedbacks to the climate system 2 . In northern (north of 30° N) ecosystems, warmer springs lead generally to an earlier onset of the growing season 3,4 and increased ecosystem productivity early in the season 5 . In situ 6 and regional 7–9 studies also provide evidence for lagged effects of spring warmth on plant productivity during the subsequent summer and autumn. However, our current understanding of these lagged effects, including their direction (beneficial or adverse) and geographic distribution, is still very limited. Here we analyse satellite, field-based and modelled data for the period 1982–2011 and show that there are widespread and contrasting lagged productivity responses to spring warmth across northern ecosystems. On the basis of the observational data, we find that roughly 15 per cent of the total study area of about 41 million square kilometres exhibits adverse lagged effects and that roughly 5 per cent of the total study area exhibits beneficial lagged effects. By contrast, current-generation terrestrial carbon-cycle models predict much lower areal fractions of adverse lagged effects (ranging from 1 to 14 per cent) and much higher areal fractions of beneficial lagged effects (ranging from 9 to 54 per cent). We find that elevation and seasonal precipitation patterns largely dictate the geographic pattern and direction of the lagged effects. Inadequate consideration in current models of the effects of the seasonal build-up of water stress on seasonal vegetation growth may therefore be able to explain the differences that we found between our observation-constrained estimates and the model-constrained estimates of lagged effects associated with spring warming. Overall, our results suggest that for many northern ecosystems the benefits of warmer springs on growing-season ecosystem productivity are effectively compensated for by the accumulation of seasonal water deficits, despite the fact that northern ecosystems are thought to be largely temperature- and radiation-limited 10 .",
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AU - Jain, Atul

AU - Kato, Etsushi

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