Enhanced seasonal CO2 exchange caused by amplified plant productivity in northern ecosystems

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Science  21 Jan 2016:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4971

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Atmospheric monitoring of high northern latitudes (> 40°N) has shown an enhanced seasonal cycle of carbon dioxide (CO2) since the 1960s but the underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood. The much stronger increase in high latitudes compared to low ones suggests that northern ecosystems are experiencing large changes in vegetation and carbon cycle dynamics. Here we show that the latitudinal gradient of the increasing CO2 amplitude is mainly driven by positive trends in photosynthetic carbon uptake caused by recent climate change and mediated by changing vegetation cover in northern ecosystems. Our results emphasize the importance of climate-vegetation-carbon cycle feedbacks at high latitudes, and indicate that during the last decades photosynthetic carbon uptake has reacted much more strongly to warming than carbon release processes.

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