Nitrogen and water availability control plant carbon storage with warming

  • Guiyao Zhou (Contributor)
  • C├ęsar Terrer (Contributor)
  • An Huang (Contributor)
  • Bruce A. Hungate (Contributor)
  • Natasja van Gestel (Contributor)
  • Xuhui Zhou (Contributor)
  • Kees Jan van Groenigen (Contributor)



Plants may slow global warming through enhanced growth, because increased levels of photosynthesis stimulate the land carbon (C) sink. However, how climate warming affects plant C storage globally and key drivers that determining the response of plant C storage to climate warming remains unclear, causing uncertainty in climate projections. We performed a comprehensive meta-analysis, compiling 393 observations from 99 warming studies to examine the global patterns of plant C storage responses to climate warming and explore the key drivers. Warming significantly increased total biomass (+8.4%), aboveground biomass (+12.6%) and belowground biomass (+10.1%). The effect of experimental warming on plant biomass was best explained by the availability of soil nitrogen (N) and water. Across the entire dataset, warming-induced changes in total, aboveground and belowground biomass all positively correlated with soil C:N ratio, an indicator of soil N availability. In addition, warming stimulated plant biomass more strongly in humid than in dry ecosystems, and warming tended to decrease root:shoot ratios at high soil C:N ratios. Together, these results suggest dual controls of warming effects on plant C storage; warming increases plant growth in ecosystems where N is limiting plant growth, but it reduces plant growth where water availability is limiting plant growth. Together, these findings suggested that warming effects on plant C storage largely depend on soil N and water status, which should be considered into Earth system models to improve the future prediction of C-climate change feedbacks.
Date made availableAug 22 2022

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