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Exposures to temperature beyond threshold disproportionately reduce vegetation growth in the northern hemisphere

Journal article
Authors Xiuchen Wu
Weichao Guo
Hongyan Liu
Xiaoyan Li
Changhui Peng
Craig D Allen
Cicheng Zhang
Pei Wang
Tingting Pei
Yujun Ma
Yuhong Tian
Zhaoliang Song
Wenquan Zhu
Yang Wang
Zongshan Li
Deliang Chen
Published in National Science Review
Volume 6
Issue 4
Pages 786–795
ISSN 2095-5138
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 786–795
Language en
Keywords temperature exposure, vegetation growth, extremely high temperature, non-linear response, temperate and boreal northern hemisphere
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


In recent decades, terrestrial vegetation in the northern hemisphere (NH) has been exposed to warming and more extremely high temperatures. However, the consequences of these changes for terrestrial vegetation growth remain poorly quantified and understood. By examining a satellite-based vegetation index, tree-ring measurements and land-surface model simulations, we discovered a consistent convex pattern in the responses of vegetation growth to temperature exposure (TE) for forest, shrub and grass in both the temperate (30°−50° N) and boreal (50°−70° N) NH during the period of 1982−2012. The response of vegetation growth to TE for the three vegetation types in both the temperate and boreal NH increased convergently with increasing temperature, until vegetation type-dependent temperature thresholds were reached. A TE beyond these temperature thresholds resulted in disproportionately weak positive or even strong negative responses. Vegetation growth in the boreal NH was more vulnerable to extremely high-temperature events than vegetation growth in the temporal NH. The non-linear responses discovered here provide new insights into the dynamics of northern terrestrial ecosystems in a warmer world.

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