Large sensitivity in land carbon storage due to geographical and temporal variation in the thermal response of photosynthetic capacity

Lina M. Mercado*, Belinda E. Medlyn, Chris Huntingford, Rebecca J. Oliver, Douglas B. Clark, Stephen Sitch, Przemyslaw Zelazowski, Jens Kattge, Anna B. Harper, Peter M. Cox

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    66 Citations (Scopus)
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    Plant temperature responses vary geographically, reflecting thermally contrasting habitats and long-term species adaptations to their climate of origin. Plants also can acclimate to fast temporal changes in temperature regime to mitigate stress. Although plant photosynthetic responses are known to acclimate to temperature, many global models used to predict future vegetation and climate–carbon interactions do not include this process. We quantify the global and regional impacts of biogeographical variability and thermal acclimation of temperature response of photosynthetic capacity on the terrestrial carbon (C) cycle between 1860 and 2100 within a coupled climate–carbon cycle model, that emulates 22 global climate models. Results indicate that inclusion of biogeographical variation in photosynthetic temperature response is most important for present-day and future C uptake, with increasing importance of thermal acclimation under future warming. Accounting for both effects narrows the range of predictions of the simulated global land C storage in 2100 across climate projections (29% and 43% globally and in the tropics, respectively). Contrary to earlier studies, our results suggest that thermal acclimation of photosynthetic capacity makes tropical and temperate C less vulnerable to warming, but reduces the warming-induced C uptake in the boreal region under elevated CO2.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1462-1477
    Number of pages16
    JournalNew Phytologist
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • geographical variation of the temperature response of Vcmax and Jmax
    • modelling photosynthesis
    • temperature response of photosynthetic capacity
    • thermal acclimation
    • tropics
    • Vcmax


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