Higher sensitivity of gross primary production than ecosystem respiration to experimental drought and warming across six European shrubland ecosystems

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Shrubland ecosystems across Europe face a range of threats including the potential impacts of climate change. Within the INCREASE project, six shrubland ecosystems along a European climatic gradient were exposed to ecosystem-level year-round experimental nighttime warming and long-term, repeated growing season droughts. We quantified the ecosystem level CO 2 fluxes, i.e. gross primary productivity (GPP), ecosystem respiration (R eco) and net ecosystem exchange (NEE), in control and treatment plots and compared the treatment effects along the Gaussen aridity index. In general, GPP exhibited higher sensitivity to drought and warming than R eco and was found to be the dominant contributor to changes in overall NEE. Across the climate gradient, northern sites were more likely to have neutral to positive responses of NEE, i.e. increased CO 2 uptake, to drought and warming partly due to seasonal rewetting. While an earlier investigation across the same sites showed a good cross-site relationship between soil respiration responses to climate over the Gaussen aridity index, the responses of GPP, R eco and NEE showed a more complex response pattern suggesting that site-specific ecosystem traits, such as different growing season periods and plant species composition, affected the overall response pattern of the ecosystem-level CO 2 fluxes. We found that the observed response patterns of GPP and R eco rates at the six sites could be explained well by the hypothesized position of each site on site-specific soil moisture response curves of GPP/R eco fluxes. Such relatively simple, site-specific analyses could help improve our ability to explain observed CO 2 flux patterns in larger meta-analyses as well as in larger-scale model upscaling exercises and thereby help improve our ability to project changes in ecosystem CO 2 fluxes in response to future climate change.

TidsskriftThe Science of the Total Environment
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 2023

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