Implications of improved representations of plant respiration in a changing climate

Chris Huntingford, Owen K. Atkin, Alberto Martinez-De La Torre, Lina M. Mercado, Mary A. Heskel, Anna B. Harper, Keith J. Bloomfield, Odhran S. O'Sullivan, Peter B. Reich, Kirk R. Wythers, Ethan E. Butler, Ming Chen, Kevin L. Griffin, Patrick Meir, Mark G. Tjoelker, Matthew H. Turnbull, Stephen Sitch, Andy Wiltshire, Yadvinder Malhi

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33 Scopus citations


Land-atmosphere exchanges influence atmospheric CO2. Emphasis has been on describing photosynthetic CO2 uptake, but less on respiration losses. New global datasets describe upper canopy dark respiration (R d) and temperature dependencies. This allows characterisation of baseline R d, instantaneous temperature responses and longer-term thermal acclimation effects. Here we show the global implications of these parameterisations with a global gridded land model. This model aggregates R d to whole-plant respiration R p, driven with meteorological forcings spanning uncertainty across climate change models. For pre-industrial estimates, new baseline R d increases R p and especially in the tropics. Compared to new baseline, revised instantaneous response decreases R p for mid-latitudes, while acclimation lowers this for the tropics with increases elsewhere. Under global warming, new R d estimates amplify modelled respiration increases, although partially lowered by acclimation. Future measurements will refine how R d aggregates to whole-plant respiration. Our analysis suggests R p could be around 30% higher than existing estimates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1602
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

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    Huntingford, C., Atkin, O. K., Martinez-De La Torre, A., Mercado, L. M., Heskel, M. A., Harper, A. B., Bloomfield, K. J., O'Sullivan, O. S., Reich, P. B., Wythers, K. R., Butler, E. E., Chen, M., Griffin, K. L., Meir, P., Tjoelker, M. G., Turnbull, M. H., Sitch, S., Wiltshire, A., & Malhi, Y. (2017). Implications of improved representations of plant respiration in a changing climate. Nature communications, 8(1), [1602].