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Globally consistent influences of seasonal precipitation limit grassland biomass response to elevated CO2


Hovenden, MJ and Leuzinger, S and Newton, PCD and Fletcher, A and Fatichi, S and Luscher, A and Reich, PB and Andresen, LC and Beier, C and Blumenthal, DM and Chiariello, NR and Dukes, JS and Kellner, J and Hofmockel, K and Niklaus, PA and Song, J and Wan, J and Classen, AT and Langley, A, Globally consistent influences of seasonal precipitation limit grassland biomass response to elevated CO2, Nature Plants, 5 pp. 167-173. ISSN 2055-026X (2019) [Refereed Article]


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Copyright 2019 The Authors, under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. The post-print version of the article is subject to Springer Nature's terms of reuse available at

DOI: doi:10.1038/s41477-018-0356-x


Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) should stimulate biomass production directly via biochemical stimulation of carbon assimilation and indirectly via water savings caused by increased plant water use efficiency. Because of these water savings, the CO2 fertilisation effect should be stronger in drier sites, yet large differences among experiments in grassland biomass response to elevated CO2 appear unrelated to annual precipitation, preventing useful generalisations. Here we show that, as predicted, the impact of elevated CO2 on biomass production in 19 globally-distributed temperate grassland experiments reduces as mean precipitation in seasons other than spring increases but, unexpectedly, rises as mean spring precipitation increases. Moreover, because sites with high spring precipitation also tend to have high precipitation at other times, these effects of spring and non-spring precipitation on the CO2 response offset each other, constraining the response of ecosystem productivity to rising CO2. This explains why previous analyses were unable to discern a reliable trend between site dryness and the CO2 fertilisation effect. Thus, the CO2 fertilisation effect in temperate grasslands worldwide will be constrained by their natural rainfall seasonality such that the stimulation of biomass by rising CO2 could be substantially less than anticipated.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:elevated CO2, rainfall, precipitation, temperate grasslands, productivity, annual net primary productivity
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Other biological sciences
Research Field:Global change biology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Hovenden, MJ (Professor Mark Hovenden)
ID Code:130137
Year Published:2019
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP150102426)
Web of Science® Times Cited:37
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2019-01-11
Last Modified:2022-08-19
Downloads:91 View Download Statistics

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