Changement climatique - Recherche française (avec laboratoires CNRS) - 2010-2015


Nutrient availability as the key regulator of global forest carbon balance

Publication Year


  • Fernandez-Martinez, M.
  • Vicca, S.
  • Janssens, I. A.
  • Sardans, J.
  • Luyssaert, S.
  • Campioli, M.
  • Chapin, F. S., III
  • Ciais, P.
  • Malhi, Y.
  • Obersteiner, M.
  • Papale, D.
  • Piao, S. L.
  • Reichstein, M.
  • Roda, F.
  • Penuelas, J.
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE Volume: 4 Issue: 6 Pages: 471-476 Published: 2014
1758-678X eISSN: 1758-6798

Forests strongly affect climate through the exchange of large amounts of atmospheric CO2 (ref. 1). The main drivers of spatial variability in net ecosystem production (NEP) on a global scale are, however, poorly known. As increasing nutrient availability increases the production of biomass per unit of photosynthesis(2) and reduces heterotrophic(3) respiration in forests, we expected nutrients to determine carbon sequestration in forests. Our synthesis study of 92 forests in different climate zones revealed that nutrient availability indeed plays a crucial role in determining NEP and ecosystem carbon-use efficiency (CUEe; that is, the ratio of NEP to gross primary production (GPP)). Forests with high GPP exhibited high NEP only in nutrient-rich forests (CUEe = 33 +/- 4%; mean +/- s.e.m.). In nutrient-poor forests, a much larger proportion of GPP was released through ecosystem respiration, resulting in lower CUEe (6 +/- 4%). Our finding that nutrient availability exerts a stronger control on NEP than on carbon input (GPP) conflicts with assumptions of nearly all global coupled carbon cycle-climate models, which assume that carbon inputs through photosynthesis drive biomass production and carbon sequestration. An improved global understanding of nutrient availability would therefore greatly improve carbon cycle modelling and should become a critical focus for future research.

KeyWord(s) Plus
ESI Discipline(s)
  • Environment/Ecology
  • Geosciences
  • Social Sciences
Web of Science Category(ies)
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental Studies
  • Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences

[Fernandez-Martinez, M.; Sardans, J.; Penuelas, J.] CREAF CSIC UAB, Global Ecol Unit, CSIC, Barcelona 08193, Catalonia, Spain; [Fernandez-Martinez, M.; Sardans, J.; Roda, F.; Penuelas, J.] CREAF, Barcelona 08193, Catalonia, Spain; [Vicca, S.; Janssens, I. A.; Campioli, M.] Univ Antwerp, Dept Biol, Res Grp Plant & Vegetat Ecol, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium; [Luyssaert, S.; Ciais, P.] LSCE CEA CNRS UVSQ, F-91191 Gif Sur Yvette, France; [Chapin, F. S., III] Univ Alaska Fairbanks, Inst Arctic Biol, Fairbanks, AK 99775 USA; [Malhi, Y.] Univ Oxford, Environm Change Inst, Sch Geog & Environm, Oxford OX1 3QY, England; [Obersteiner, M.] Int Inst Appl Syst Anal, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria; [Papale, D.] Univ Tuscia, DIBAF, I-01100 Viterbo, Italy; [Piao, S. L.] Peking Univ, Coll Urban & Environm Sci, Beijing 100871, Peoples R China; [Piao, S. L.] Chinese Acad Sci, Inst Tibetan Plateau Res, Beijing 100085, Peoples R China; [Reichstein, M.] Max Planck Inst Biogeochem, D-07745 Jena, Germany; [Roda, F.] Univ Autonoma Barcelona, Dept Anim Biol Plant Biol & Ecol, E-08193 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Reprint Adress

Fernandez-Martinez, M (reprint author), CREAF CSIC UAB, Global Ecol Unit, CSIC, Barcelona 08193, Catalonia, Spain.

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • People's Republic of China
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
CNRS - Adress(es)
  • Laboratoire des sciences du climat et de l'environnement (LSCE), UMR8212
Accession Number
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