Lagged effects regulate the inter-annual variability of the tropical carbon balance

A. Anthony Bloom, Kevin W. Bowman, Junjie Liu, Alexandra G. Konings, John R. Worden, Nicholas C. Parazoo, Victoria Meyer, John T. Reager, Helen M. Worden, Zhe Jiang, Gregory R. Quetin, T. Luke Smallman, Jean-Francois Exbrayat, Yi Yin, Sassan S. Saatchi, Mathew Williams, David S. Schimel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Inter-annual variations in the tropical land carbon (C) balance are a dominant component of the global atmospheric CO2 growth rate. Currently, the lack of quantitative knowledge on processes controlling net tropical ecosystem C balance on inter-annual timescales inhibits accurate understanding and projections of land–atmosphere C exchanges. In particular, uncertainty on the relative contribution of ecosystem C fluxes attributable to concurrent forcing anomalies (concurrent effects) and those attributable to the continuing influence of past phenomena (lagged effects) stifles efforts to explicitly understand the integrated sensitivity of a tropical ecosystem to climatic variability. Here we present a conceptual framework – applicable in principle to any land biosphere model – to explicitly quantify net biospheric exchange (NBE) as the sum of anomaly-induced concurrent changes and climatology-induced lagged changes to terrestrial ecosystem C states (NBE = NBECON+NBELAG). We apply this framework to an observation-constrained analysis of the 2001–2015 tropical C balance: we use a data–model integration approach (CARbon DAta-MOdel fraMework – CARDAMOM) to merge satellite-retrieved land-surface C observations (leaf area, biomass, solar-induced fluorescence), soil C inventory data and satellite-based atmospheric inversion estimates of CO2 and CO fluxes to produce a data-constrained analysis of the 2001–2015 tropical C cycle. We find that the inter-annual variability of both concurrent and lagged effects substantially contributes to the 2001–2015 NBE inter-annual variability throughout 2001–2015 across the tropics (NBECON IAV = 80 % of total NBE IAV, r =  0.76; NBELAG IAV = 64 % of NBE IAV, r = 0.61), and the prominence of NBELAG IAV persists across both wet and dry tropical ecosystems. The magnitude of lagged effect variations on NBE across the tropics is largely attributable to lagged effects on net primary productivity (NPP; NPPLAG IAV 113 % of NBELAG IAV, r = −0.93, p value < 0.05), which emerge due to the dependence of NPP on inter-annual variations in foliar C and plant-available H2O states. We conclude that concurrent and lagged effects need to be explicitly and jointly resolved to retrieve an accurate understanding of the processes regulating the present-day and future trajectory of the terrestrial land C sink.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2020


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