Implications of improved representations of plant respiration in a changing climate

Chris Huntingford, Owen K. Atkin, Alberto Martinez-de La Torre, Lina M. Mercado, Mary A. Heskel, Anna Harper, Keith J. Bloomfield, Odhran S. O’sullivan, Peter B. Reich, Kirk R. Wythers, Ethan E. Butler, Ming Cheng, Kevin L. Griffin, Patrick Meir, Mark G. Tjoelker, Matthew H. Turnbull, Stephen Sitch, Andrew Wiltshire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Land-atmosphere exchanges influence atmospheric CO2. Emphasis has been on describing photosynthetic CO2 uptake, but less on respiration losses. New global datasets describe upper canopy dark respiration (Rd) and temperature dependencies. This allows characterisation of baseline Rd, instantaneous temperature responses and longer-term thermal acclimation effects. Here we show the global implications of these parameterisations with a global gridded land model. This model aggregates Rd to whole-plant respiration Rp, driven with meteorological forcings spanning uncertainty across climate change models. For pre-industrial estimates, new baseline Rd increases Rp and especially in the tropics. Compared to new baseline, revised instantaneous response decreases Rp for mid-latitudes, while acclimation lowers this for the tropics with increases elsewhere. Under global warming, new Rd estimates amplify modelled respiration increases, although partially lowered by acclimation. Future measurements will refine how Rd aggregates to whole-plant respiration. Our analysis suggests Rp could be around 30% higher than existing estimates.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2017

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