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Globally consistent influences of seasonal precipitation limit grassland biomass response to elevated CO2

Journal article
Authors Mark J. Hovenden
Sebastian Leuzinger
Paul C.D. Newton
Andrew Fletcher
Simone Fatichi
Andreas Lüscher
Peter B. Reich
Louise C. Andresen
Claus Beier
Dana M. Blumenthal
Nona R. Chiariello
Jeffrey S. Dukes
Juliane Kellner
Kirsten Hofmockel
Pascal A. Niklaus
Jian Song
Shiqiang Wan
Aimée T. Classen
J. Adam Langley
Published in Nature Plants
Volume 5
Pages 167-173
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 167-173
Language en
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences


© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration should stimulate biomass production directly via biochemical stimulation of carbon assimilation, and indirectly via water savings caused by increased plant water-use efficiency. Because of these water savings, the CO 2 fertilization effect (CFE) should be stronger at drier sites, yet large differences among experiments in grassland biomass response to elevated CO 2 appear to be unrelated to annual precipitation, preventing useful generalizations. Here, we show that, as predicted, the impact of elevated CO 2 on biomass production in 19 globally distributed temperate grassland experiments reduces as mean precipitation in seasons other than spring increases, but that it rises unexpectedly as mean spring precipitation increases. Moreover, because sites with high spring precipitation also tend to have high precipitation at other times, these effects of spring and non-spring precipitation on the CO 2 response offset each other, constraining the response of ecosystem productivity to rising CO 2 . This explains why previous analyses were unable to discern a reliable trend between site dryness and the CFE. Thus, the CFE in temperate grasslands worldwide will be constrained by their natural rainfall seasonality such that the stimulation of biomass by rising CO 2 could be substantially less than anticipated.

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