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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 31 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 31 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Low sensitivity of gross primary production to elevated CO2 in a mature Eucalypt woodland

Jinyan Yang1, Belinda E. Medlyn1, Martin G. De Kauwe2,3, Remko A. Duursma1, Mingkai Jiang1, Dushan Kumarathunge1, Kristine Y. Crous1, Teresa E. Gimeno4,5, Agnieszka Wujeska-Klause1, and David S. Ellsworth1 Jinyan Yang et al.
  • 1Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW, Australia
  • 2ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
  • 3Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia
  • 4Basque Centre for Climate Change, Scientific Campus of the University of the Basque Country, Leioa, Spain
  • 5IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, 48008, Bilbao, Spain

Abstract. The response of mature forest ecosystems to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (Ca) is a major uncertainty in projecting the future trajectory of the Earth’s climate. Although leaf-level net photosynthesis is typically stimulated by exposure to elevated Ca (eCa), it is unclear how this stimulation translates into carbon cycle responses at whole-ecosystem scale. Here we estimate a key component of the carbon cycle, the gross primary productivity (GPP), of a mature native Eucalypt forest exposed to Free Air CO2 Enrichment (the EucFACE experiment). In this experiment, light-saturated leaf photosynthesis increased by 19 % in response to a 38 % increase in Ca. We used the process-based forest canopy model, MAESPA, to upscale these leaf-level measurements of photosynthesis with canopy structure to estimate Gross Primary Production (GPP) and its response to eCa. We assessed the direct impact of eCa, as well as the indirect effect of photosynthetic acclimation to eCa and variability among treatment plots via different model scenarios.

At the canopy scale, MAESPA estimated a GPP of 1574 g C m−2 yr−1 under ambient conditions across four years and a direct increase in GPP of +11 % in response to eCa. The smaller canopy-scale response simulated by the model, as compared to the leaf-level response, could be attributed to the prevalence of RuBP-regeneration limitation of leaf photosynthesis within the canopy. Photosynthetic acclimation reduced this estimated response to 10 %. Considering variability in leaf area index across plots, we estimated a mean GPP response to eCa of 6 % with a 95 % CI of (−2 %, 14 %). These findings highlight that the GPP response of mature forests to eCa is likely to be considerably lower than the response of light-saturated leaf photosynthesis. Our results provide an important context for interpreting eCa responses of other components of the ecosystem carbon cycle.

Jinyan Yang et al.
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Jinyan Yang et al.
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Short summary
This study addressed a major knowledge gap of the response of forest productivity to elevated CO2. We quantified the forest productivity of an evergreen woodland under both ambient and elevated CO2, using a model constrained by in situ measurements. The simulation further showed that the forest productivity was mainly limited by a different biochemical process than that at leaf scale. This finding provides key references for understanding the impacts of rising CO2 on forest ecosystems.
This study addressed a major knowledge gap of the response of forest productivity to elevated...