Sensitivity of potential natural vegetation in China to projected changes in temperature, precipitation and atmospheric CO2

Han Wang*, Jian Ni, Ian Colin Prentice

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    35 Citations (Scopus)


    A sensitivity study was performed to investigate the responses of potential natural vegetation distribution in China to the separate and combined effects of temperature, precipitation and [CO2], using the process-based equilibrium terrestrial biosphere model BIOME4. The model shows a generally good agreement with a map of the potential natural vegetation distribution based on a numerical comparison using the ΔV statistic (ΔV = 0.25). Mean temperature of each month was increased uniformly by 0-5 K, in 0. 5- or 1-K intervals. Mean precipitation of each month was increased and decreased uniformly by 0-30%, in 10% intervals. The analyses were run at fixed CO2 concentrations of 360 and 720 ppm. Temperature increases shifted most forest boundaries northward and westward, expanded the distribution of xeric biomes, and confined the tundra to progressively higher elevations. Precipitation increases led to a greater area occupied by mesic biomes at the expense of xeric biomes. Most vegetation types in the temperate regions, and on the Tibetan Plateau, expanded westward into the dry continental interior with increasing precipitation. Precipitation decreases had opposite effects. The modelled effect of CO2 doubling was to partially compensate for the negative effect of drought on the mesic biomes and to increase potential ecosystem carbon storage by about 40%. Warming tended to counteract this effect, by reducing soil carbon storage. Forest biomes showed substantial resilience to climate change, especially when the effects of increasing [CO2] were taken into account. Savannas, dry woodland and tundra biomes proved sensitive to temperature increases. The transition region of grassland and forest, and the Tibetan plateau, was the most vulnerable region.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)715-727
    Number of pages13
    JournalRegional Environmental Change
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Erratum can be found in Regional Environmental Change, Volume 11(3), 729,


    • biogeography model
    • sensitivity analysis
    • climate change
    • CO2 fertilization
    • carbon storage
    • China


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