Contrasting changes in gross primary productivity of different regions of North America as affected by warming in recent decades

Zelalem A. Mekonnen, Robert F. Grant, Christopher Schwalm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Ecosystem responses to the increasing warming in recent decades across North America (NA) are spatially heterogeneous and partly uncertain. Here we examined the spatial and temporal variability of warming across different eco-regions of NA using long-term (1979-2010) climate data (North America Regional Reanalysis (NARR)) with 3-hourly time-step and 0.25° × 0.25° spatial resolution and run a comprehensive mathematical process model, ecosys to study the impacts of this variability in warming on gross primary productivity (GPP). In a site scale test of model results, annual GPP modeled for pixels which corresponded to the locations of 20 eddy covariance flux towers correlated well (R2 = 0.76) with annual GPP derived from the towers in 2005. At continental scale, long-term annual average modeled GPP correlated well (geographically weighed regression R2 = 0.8) with MODIS GPP. GPP modeled in eastern temperate forests and most areas with lower mean annual air temperature (Ta), such as those in northern forests and Taiga, increased due to early spring and late autumn warming observed in NARR and these eco-regions contributed 92% of the increases in NA GPP over the last three decades. However, modeled GPP declined in most southwestern regions of NA (accounting >50% of the ecosystems with declining GPP), due to water stress from rising Ta and declining precipitation, implying that further warming and projected dryness in this region could further reduce NA carbon uptake. Overall, NA modeled GPP increased by 5.8% in the last 30 years, with a positive trend of +0.012 ± 0.01 Pg C yr-1 and a range of -1.16 to +0.87 Pg C yr-1 caused by interannual variability of GPP from the long-term (1980-2010) mean. This variability was the greatest in southwest of US and part of the Great Plains, which could be as a result of frequent El Niño-Southern Oscillation' events that led to major droughts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-64
Number of pages15
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016


  • Carbon flux
  • Ecosys
  • Ecosystem modeling
  • North America GPP
  • Warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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