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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
C.H. acknowledges the NERC CEH National Capability fund. We acknowledge the many climate research centres that contributed GCM outputs in to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) database. The support of the Australian Research Council to O.K.A. and P.M. (DP130101252, CE140100008, FT0991448, FT110100457) is acknowledged, as are awards DE-FG02-07ER64456 from the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research and DEB-1234162 from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research Program (to P.B.R.); and National Science Foundation International Polar Year Grant (to K.L.G.). L.M.M. acknowledges the support of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) South American Biomass Burning Analysis (SAMBBA) project grant code NE/ J010057/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


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