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Interannual variability in aboveground net primary production (ANPP) was assessed with long-term (mean = 12 years) data from 11 Long Term Ecological Research sites across North America. The greatest interannual variability in ANPP occurred in grasslands and old fields, with forests the least variable. At a continental scale, ANPP was strongly correlated with annual precipitation. However, interannual variability in ANPP was not related to variability in precipitation. Instead, maximum variability in ANPP occurred in biomes where high potential growth rates of herbaceous vegetation were combined with moderate variability in precipitation. In the most dynamic biomes, ANPP responded more strongly to wet than to dry years. Recognition of the fourfold range in ANPP dynamics across biomes and of the factors that constrain this variability is critical for detecting the biotic impacts of global change phenomena.