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Research Project: Understanding Water-Driven Ecohydrologic and Erosion Processes in the Semiarid Southwest to Improve Watershed Management

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Impacts of droughts and extreme-temperature events on gross primary production and ecosystem respiration: a systematic assessment across ecosystems and climate zones

Author
item Von Buttlar, J. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry
item Zscheischler, J. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry
item Rammig, A. - Gottingen University
item Sippel, S. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry
item Reichstein, M. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry
item Knohl, A. - Eth Zurich
item Jung, M. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry
item Menzer, O. - University Of California
item Arain, M.a. - McMaster University
item Buchmann, N. - Eth Zurich
item Cescatti, A. - European Commission-Joint Research Centre (JRC)
item Geinelle, D. - Fondazione Edmund Mach
item Kiely, G. - University College Cork
item Law, B.e. - Oregon State University
item Magliudo, V. - Mediterranean Agronomic Institue Of Bari (MAI-BARI)
item Margolis, H. - University Of Laval
item Mccaughey, H. - Queen'S University - Canada
item Merbold, L. - International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) - Kenya
item Migliavacca, M. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry
item Montagnani, L. - Free University Of Bozen-Bolzano
item Oechel, W. - San Diego State University
item Pavelka, M. - University Of Exeter
item Pelchl, M. - Institute For Biophysics - Czech Republic
item Rambal, S. - French National Institute For Agricultural Research
item Raschi, A. - Institute Of Biometeorology
item Scott, Russell - Russ
item Vaccari, F.p. - Institute Of Biometeorology
item Van Gorsel, E. - Australian National University
item Varlagin, A. - Russian Academy Of Sciences
item Wohlfahrt, G. - University Of Innsbruck
item Mahecha1, M.d. - Max Planck Institute For Biogeochemistry

Submitted to: Biogeosciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/29/2018
Publication Date: 3/5/2018
Citation: Von Buttlar, J., Zscheischler, J., Rammig, A., Sippel, S., Reichstein, M., Knohl, A., Jung, M., Menzer, O., Arain, M., Buchmann, N., Cescatti, A., Geinelle, D., Kiely, G., Law, B., Magliudo, V., Margolis, H., McCaughey, H., Merbold, L., Migliavacca, M., Montagnani, L., Oechel, W., Pavelka, M., Pelchl, M., Rambal, S., Raschi, A., Scott, R.L., Vaccari, F., Van Gorsel, E., Varlagin, A., Wohlfahrt, G., Mahecha, M. 2018. Impacts of droughts and extreme-temperature events on gross primary production and ecosystem respiration: a systematic assessment across ecosystems and climate zones. Biogeosciences. 15:1293-1318. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-1293-2018.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-15-1293-2018

Interpretive Summary: Extreme climatic events, such as droughts and heat stress, can alter the exchanges of carbon dioxide (CO2) between the land and atmosphere. However, despite our increasing understanding of the underlying mechanisms, the magnitudes of the impacts of different types of extremes on ecosystem gross uptake and release of CO2 remain poorly predicted. We identified extreme events that occurred across the globe over a 30 year time period. We then used ecosystem CO2 flux measurements from a network of global sites to determine the ecosystem response. Our results indicate that short-term heat extremes increased CO2 release more strongly than they decreased CO2 uptake. In the absence of heat stress, droughts tended to have smaller and similarly dampening effects on both uptake and release, and, hence, often resulted in neutral net CO2 exchange responses. Compound heat and drought events led to the strongest net CO2 exchange reduction compared to any single-factor extreme. A key insight of this paper, however, is that duration of the event matters most. Our study corroborates the results of several local site-level case studies, but as a novelty generalizes these findings at the global scale.

Technical Abstract: Extreme climatic events, such as droughts and heat stress induce anomalies in ecosystem-atmosphere CO2 fluxes, such as gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Reco), and, hence, can change the net ecosystem carbon balance. However, despite our increasing understanding of the underlying mechanisms, the magnitudes of the impacts of different types of extremes on GPP and Reco within and between ecosystems remain poorly predicted. Here we aim to identify the major factors controlling the amplitude of extreme event impacts on GPP, Reco, and the resulting net ecosystem production (NEP). We focus on the impacts of heat and drought and their combination. We identified hydrometeorological extreme events in consistently downscaled water availability and temperature measurements over a 30 year time period. We then used FLUXNET eddy covariance flux measurements to estimate the CO2 flux anomalies during these extreme events across dominant vegetation types and climate zones. Overall, our results indicate that short-term heat extremes increased respiration more strongly than they down-regulated GPP, resulting in a moderate reduction of the ecosystem’s carbon sink potential. In the absence of heat stress, droughts tended to have smaller and similarly dampening effects on both GPP and Reco, and, hence, often resulted in neutral NEP responses. The combination of drought and heat typically led to a strong decrease in GPP, whereas heat and drought impacts on respiration partially offset each other. Taken together, compound heat and drought events led to the strongest C sink reduction compared to any single-factor extreme. A key insight of this paper, however, is that duration matters most: for heat stress during droughts, the magnitude of impacts systematically increased with duration, whereas under heat stress without drought, the response of Reco over time turned from an initial increase to a down-regulation after about two weeks. This confirms earlier theories that not only the magnitude but also the duration of an extreme event determines its impact. Our study corroborates the results of several local site-level case studies, but as a novelty generalizes these findings at the global scale. Specifically, we find that the different response functions of the two antipodal land-atmosphere fluxes GPP and Reco can also result in increasing NEP during certain extreme conditions. Apparently counterintuitive findings of this kind bear great potential for scrutinizing the mechanisms implemented in state-of-the-art terrestrial biosphere models and provide a benchmark for future model development and testing.