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- Frontiers in Environmental Science
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null (Ed.)Drylands are a critical part of the earth system in terms of total area, socioeconomic and ecological importance. However, while drylands are known for their contribution to inter-annual atmospheric CO 2 variability, they are sometimes overlooked in discussions of global carbon stocks. Here, in preparation for the November 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), we review dryland systems with emphasis on their role in current and future carbon storage, response to climate change and potential to contribute to a carbon neutral future. Current estimates of carbon in dryland soils and vegetation suggest they are significant at global scale, containing approximately 30% of global carbon in above and below-ground biomass, and surface-layer soil carbon (top 30 cm). As ecosystems that are limited by water, the drylands are vulnerable to climate change. Climate change impacts are, however, dependent on future trends in rainfall that include both drying and wetting trends at regional scales. Regional rainfall trends will initiate trends in dryland productivity, vegetation structure and soil carbon storage. However, while management of fire and herbivory can contribute to increased carbon sequestration, impacts are dependent on locally unique ecosystem responses and climate-soil-plant interactions. Similarly, while community based agroforestry initiatives have been successful in some areas, large-scale afforestation programs are logistically infeasible and sometimes ecologically inappropriate at larger scales. As climate changes, top-down prescriptive measures designed to increase carbon storage should be avoided in favour of locally-adapted approaches that balance carbon management priorities with local livelihoods, ecosystem function, biodiversity and cultural, social and economic priorities.more » « less
Abstract Despite their sparse vegetation, dryland regions exert a huge influence over global biogeochemical cycles because they cover more than 40% of the world surface (Schimel 2010 Science 327 418–9). It is thought that drylands dominate the inter-annual variability (IAV) and long-term trend in the global carbon (C) cycle (Poulter et al 2014 Nature 509 600–3, Ahlstrom et al 2015 Science 348 895–9, Zhang et al 2018 Glob. Change Biol . 24 3954–68). Projections of the global land C sink therefore rely on accurate representation of dryland C cycle processes; however, the dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) used in future projections have rarely been evaluated against dryland C flux data. Here, we carried out an evaluation of 14 DGVMs (TRENDY v7) against net ecosystem exchange (NEE) data from 12 dryland flux sites in the southwestern US encompassing a range of ecosystem types (forests, shrub- and grasslands). We find that all the models underestimate both mean annual C uptake/release as well as the magnitude of NEE IAV, suggesting that improvements in representing dryland regions may improve global C cycle projections. Across all models, the sensitivity and timing of ecosystem C uptake to plant available moisture was at fault. Spring biases in gross primary production (GPP) dominate the underestimate of mean annual NEE, whereas models’ lack of GPP response to water availability in both spring and summer monsoon are responsible for inability to capture NEE IAV. Errors in GPP moisture sensitivity at high elevation forested sites were more prominent during the spring, while errors at the low elevation shrub and grass-dominated sites were more important during the monsoon. We propose a range of hypotheses for why model GPP does not respond sufficiently to changing water availability that can serve as a guide for future dryland DGVM developments. Our analysis suggests that improvements in modeling C cycle processes across more than a quarter of the Earth’s land surface could be achieved by addressing the moisture sensitivity of dryland C uptake.more » « less
Drylands are key contributors to interannual variation in the terrestrial carbon sink, which has been attributed primarily to broad‐scale climatic anomalies that disproportionately affect net primary production (NPP) in these ecosystems. Current knowledge around the patterns and controls of NPP is based largely on measurements of aboveground net primary production (ANPP), particularly in the context of altered precipitation regimes. Limited evidence suggests belowground net primary production (BNPP), a major input to the terrestrial carbon pool, may respond differently than ANPP to precipitation, as well as other drivers of environmental change, such as nitrogen deposition and fire. Yet long‐term measurements of BNPP are rare, contributing to uncertainty in carbon cycle assessments. Here, we used 16 years of annual NPP measurements to investigate responses of ANPP and BNPP to several environmental change drivers across a grassland–shrubland transition zone in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. ANPP was positively correlated with annual precipitation across this landscape; however, this relationship was weaker within sites. BNPP, on the other hand, was weakly correlated with precipitation only in Chihuahuan Desert shrubland. Although NPP generally exhibited similar trends among sites, temporal correlations between ANPP and BNPP within sites were weak. We found chronic nitrogen enrichment stimulated ANPP, whereas a one‐time prescribed burn reduced ANPP for nearly a decade. Surprisingly, BNPP was largely unaffected by these factors. Together, our results suggest that BNPP is driven by a different set of controls than ANPP. Furthermore, our findings imply belowground production cannot be inferred from aboveground measurements in dryland ecosystems. Improving understanding around the patterns and controls of dryland NPP at interannual to decadal scales is fundamentally important because of their measurable impact on the global carbon cycle. This study underscores the need for more long‐term measurements of BNPP to improve assessments of the terrestrial carbon sink, particularly in the context of ongoing environmental change.
The biogeochemical processes of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorous (P) are fully coupled in the Earth system, which shape the structure, functioning, and dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems. However, the representation of P cycle in terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) is still in an early stage. Here we incorporated P processes and C‐N‐P interactions into the C‐N coupled Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model (DLEM‐CNP), which had a major feature of the ability in simulating the N and P colimitation on vegetation C assimilation. DLEM‐CNP was intensively calibrated and validated against daily or annual observations from four eddy covariance flux sites, two Hawaiian sites along a chronosequence of soils, and other 13 tropical forest sites. The results indicate that DLEM‐CNP significantly improved simulations of forest gross and net primary production (
R2: 0.36–0.97, RMSE:1.1–1.49 g C m−2 year−1for daily GPP at eddy covariance flux sites; R2 = 0.92, RMSE = 176.7 g C m−2 year−1for annual NPP across 13 tropical forest sites). The simulations were also consistent with field observations in terms of biomass, leaf N:P ratio and plant response to fertilizer addition. A sensitivity analysis suggests that simulated results are reasonably robust against uncertainties in model parameter estimates and the model was very sensitive to parameters of P uptake. These results suggest that incorporating P processes and N‐P interaction into terrestrial biosphere models is of critical importance for accurately estimating C dynamics in tropical forests, particularly those P‐limited ones.
China’s terrestrial ecosystems play a pronounced role in the global carbon cycle. Here we combine spatially-explicit information on vegetation, soil, topography, climate and land use change with a process-based biogeochemistry model to quantify the responses of terrestrial carbon cycle in China during the 20th century.
At a century scale, China’s terrestrial ecosystems have acted as a carbon sink averaging at 96 Tg C yr− 1, with large inter-annual and decadal variabilities. The regional sink has been enhanced due to the rising temperature and CO2concentration, with a slight increase trend in carbon sink strength along with the enhanced net primary production in the century. The areas characterized by C source are simulated to extend in the west and north of the Hu Huanyong line, while the eastern and southern regions increase their area and intensity of C sink, particularly in the late 20th century. Forest ecosystems dominate the C sink in China and are responsible for about 64% of the total sink. On the century scale, the increase in carbon sinks in China’s terrestrial ecosystems is mainly contributed by rising CO2. Afforestation and reforestation promote an increase in terrestrial carbon uptake in China from 1950s. Although climate change has generally contributed to the increase of carbon sinks in terrestrial ecosystems in China, the positive effect of climate change has been diminishing in the last decades of the 20th century.
This study focuses on the impacts of climate, CO2and land use change on the carbon cycle, and presents the potential trends of terrestrial ecosystem carbon balance in China at a century scale. While a slight increase in carbon sink strength benefits from the enhanced vegetation carbon uptake in China’s terrestrial ecosystems during the 20th century, the increase trend may diminish or even change to a decrease trend under future climate change.