Modeling patterns of nonlinearity in ecosystem responses to temperature, CO2, and precipitation changes

Xuhui Zhou, Ensheng Weng, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


It is commonly acknowledged that ecosystem responses to global climate change are nonlinear. However, patterns of the nonlinearity have not been well characterized on ecosystem carbon and water processes. We used a terrestrial ecosystem (TECO) model to examine nonlinear patterns of ecosystem responses to changes in temperature, CO2, and precipitation individually or in combination. The TECO model was calibrated against experimental data obtained from a grassland ecosystem in the central United States and ran for 100 years with gradual change at 252 different scenarios. We primarily used the 100th-year results to explore nonlinearity of ecosystem responses. Variables examined in this study are net primary production (NPP), heterotrophic respiration (R h), net ecosystem carbon exchange (NEE), runoff, and evapotranspiration (ET). Our modeling results show that nonlinear patterns were parabolic, asymptotic, and threshold-like in response to temperature, CO 2, and precipitation anomalies, respectively, for NPP, NEE, and Rh. Runoff and ET exhibited threshold-like pattern in response to both temperature and precipitation anomalies but were less sensitive to CO 2 changes. Ecosystem responses to combined temperature, CO2, and precipitation anomalies differed considerably from the responses to individual factors in terms of response patterns and/or critical points of nonlinearity. Our results suggest that nonlinear patterns in response to multiple global-change factors were diverse and were considerably affected by combined climate anomalies on ecosystem carbon and water processes. The diverse response patterns in nonlinearity have profound implications for both experimental design and theoretical development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-466
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • CO
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Global change
  • Grassland
  • Heterotrophic respiration
  • Net ecosystem carbon exchange
  • Net primary production
  • Nonlinear pattern
  • Precipitation
  • Runoff
  • temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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