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Contrasting responses of woody and grassland ecosystems to increased CO2 as water supply varies


Robert B. Jackson
Oliver L. Phillips
Robert S. Nowak
Richard J. Norby
Ram Oren
Peter B. Reich
Andreas Lüscher
Kevin E. Mueller
Clenton Owensby
Yiqi Luo



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station


Nature Ecology & Evolution


Experiments show that elevated atmospheric CO2 (eCO2) often enhances plant photosynthesis and productivity, yet this effect varies substantially and may be climate sensitive. Understanding if, where and how water supply regulates CO2 enhancement is critical for projecting terrestrial responses to increasing atmospheric CO2 and climate change. Here, using data from 14 long-term ecosystem-scale CO2 experiments, we show that the eCO2 enhancement of annual aboveground net primary productivity is sensitive to annual precipitation and that this sensitivity differs between woody and grassland ecosystems. During wetter years, CO2 enhancement increases in woody ecosystems but declines in grass-dominated systems. Consistent with this difference, woody ecosystems can increase leaf area index in wetter years more effectively under eCO2 than can grassland ecosystems. Overall, and across different precipitation regimes, woody systems had markedly stronger CO2 enhancement (24%) than grasslands (13%). We developed an empirical relationship to quantify aboveground net primary productivity enhancement on the basis of changes in leaf area index, providing a new approach for evaluating eCO2 impacts on the productivity of terrestrial ecosystems.


Pan, Yude; Jackson, Robert B.; Hollinger, David Y.; Phillips, Oliver L.; Nowak, Robert S.; Norby, Richard J.; Oren, Ram; Reich, Peter B.; Lüscher, Andreas; Mueller, Kevin E.; Owensby, Clenton; Birdsey, Richard; Hom, John; Luo, Yiqi. 2022. Contrasting responses of woody and grassland ecosystems to increased CO2 as water supply varies. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 15 p.


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