Responses of ecosystem carbon cycle to experimental warming: A meta-analysis

Meng Lu, Xuhui Zhou, Qiang Yang, Hui Li, Yiqi Luo, Changming Fang, Jiakuan Chen, Xin Yang, Bo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

408 Scopus citations


Global warming potentially alters the terrestrial carbon (C) cycle, likely feeding back to further climate warming. However, how the ecosystem C cycle responds and feeds back to warming remains unclear. Here we used a meta-analysis approach to quantify the response ratios of 18 variables of the ecosystem C cycle to experimental warming and evaluated ecosystem C-cycle feedback to climate warming. Our results showed that warming stimulated gross ecosystem photosynthesis (GEP) by 15.7%, net primary production (NPP) by 4.4%, and plant C pools from above- and belowground parts by 6.8% and 7.0%, respectively. Experimental warming accelerated litter mass loss by 6.8%, soil respiration by 9.0%, and dissolved organic C leaching by 12.1%. In addition, the responses of some of those variables to experimental warming differed among the ecosystem types. Our results demonstrated that the stimulation of plant-derived C influx basically offset the increase in warming-induced efflux and resulted in insignificant changes in litter and soil C content, indicating that climate warming may not trigger strong positive C-climate feedback from terrestrial ecosystems. Moreover, the increase in plant C storage together with the slight but not statistically significant decrease of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) across ecosystems suggests that terrestrial ecosystems might be a weak C sink rather than a C source under global climate warming. Our results are also potentially useful for parameterizing and benchmarking land surface models in terms of C cycle responses to climate warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-738
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • C efflux
  • C influx
  • C pools
  • C-climate feedback
  • Global warming
  • Terrestrial ecosystems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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