Climate change impacts on ecosystems and the terrestrial carbon sink: A new assessment

Andrew White, M. G R Cannell, Andrew D. Friend

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135 Citations (Scopus)


Climate output from the UK Hadley Centre's HadCM2 and HadCM3 experiments for the period 1860 to 2100, with IS92a greenhouse gas forcing, together with predicted patterns of N deposition and increasing CO2, were input (offline) to the dynamic vegetation model, Hybrid v4.1 (Friend et al., 1997; Friend and White, 1999). This model represents biogeochemical, biophysical and biogeographical processes, coupling the carbon, nitrogen and water cycles on a sub-daily timestep, simulating potential vegetation and transient changes in annual growth and competition between eight generalized plant types in response to climate. Global vegetation carbon was predicted to rise from about 600 to 800 PgC (or to 650 PgC for HadCM3) while the soil carbon pool of about 1100 PgC decreased by about 8%. By the 2080s, climate change caused a partial loss of Amazonian rainforest, C4 grasslands and temperate forest in areas of southern Europe and eastern USA, but an expansion in the boreal forest area. These changes were accompanied by a decrease in net primary productivity (NPP) of vegetation in many tropical areas, southern Europe and eastern USA (in response to warming and a decrease in rainfall), but an increase in NPP of boreal forests. Global NPP increased from 45 to 50 PgC y-1 in the 1990s to about 65 PgC y-1 in the 2080s (about 58 PgC y-1 for HadCM3). Global net ecosystem productivity (NEP) increased from about 1.3 PgC y-1 in the 1990s to about 3.6 PgC y-1 in the 2030s and then declined to zero by 2100 owing to a loss of carbon from declining forests in the tropics and at warm temperate latitudes - despite strengthening of the carbon sink at northern high latitudes. HadCM3 gave a more erratic temporal evolution of NEP than HadCM2, with a dramatic collapse in NEP in the 2050s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S21-S30
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue numberSUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999


  • Carbon sink
  • Climate change
  • Elevated CO 2


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