By Daniel E. Metcalfe, et al.
Models predicting ecosystem carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange under future climate change rely on relatively few real-world tests of their assumptions and outputs. Here we demonstrate a rapid and cost-effective method to estimate CO2 exchange from intact vegetation patches under varying atmospheric CO2 concentrations. We find that net ecosystem CO2 uptake (NEE) in a boreal forest rose linearly by 4.7 ± 0.2% of the current ambient rate for every 10 ppm CO2 increase, with no detectable influence of foliar biomass, season or nitrogen (N) fertilization. The lack of any clear short-term NEE response to fertilization in such an N-limited system is inconsistent with the instantaneous down-regulation of photosynthesis formalized in many global models. Incorporating an alternative mechanism with considerable empirical support – diversion of excess carbon to storage compounds – into an existing earth system model brings the model output into closer agreement with our field measurements. A global simulation incorporating this modified model reduces a long-standing mismatch between the modeled and observed seasonal amplitude of atmospheric CO2. Wider application of this chamber approach would provide critical data needed to further improve modeled projections of biosphere-atmosphere CO2 exchange in a changing climate.
This article appeared in Global Change Biology at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13451/full