Abstract

The terrestrial biosphere is a key component of the global carbon cycle and its carbon balance is strongly influenced by climate. Continuing environmental changes are thought to increase global terrestrial carbon uptake. But evidence is mounting that climate extremes such as droughts or storms can lead to a decrease in regional ecosystem carbon stocks and therefore have the potential to negate an expected increase in terrestrial carbon uptake. Here we explore the mechanisms and impacts of climate extremes on the terrestrial carbon cycle, and propose a pathway to improve our understanding of present and future impacts of climate extremes on the terrestrial carbon budget.

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Acknowledgements

This work emerged from the CARBO-Extreme project, funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement (FP7-ENV-2008-1-226701). We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups (listed in the reference annotation to ref. 4 of this paper) for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. J.Z. is part of the International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles. P.S. is a Royal Society–Wolfson Research Merit Award holder. S.V. is a postdoctoral research associate of the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders. M.B. acknowledges the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, 07745 Jena, Germany

    • Markus Reichstein
    • , Dorothea Frank
    • , Miguel D. Mahecha
    • , Jakob Zscheischler
    •  & Christian Beer
  2. Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

    • Michael Bahn
  3. IPSL—Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, 91191 Gif sur Yvette, France

    • Philippe Ciais
  4. ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland

    • Sonia I. Seneviratne
    • , Jakob Zscheischler
    •  & Nina Buchmann
  5. Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, 72076 Tübingen, Germany

    • Jakob Zscheischler
  6. Stockholm University, Department of Applied Environmental Science (ITM), and the Bert Bolin Centre for Climate Research, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden

    • Christian Beer
  7. Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

    • David C. Frank
  8. Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

    • David C. Frank
  9. Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-food and Forest Systems (DIBAF), University of Tuscia, 01100 Viterbo, Italy

    • Dario Papale
  10. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), 14773 Potsdam, Germany

    • Anja Rammig
    •  & Kirsten Thonicke
  11. Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK

    • Pete Smith
  12. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Ecosystems Services and Management Program, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria

    • Marijn van der Velde
  13. Research Group of Plant and Vegetation Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium

    • Sara Vicca
  14. University of Potsdam, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, 14476 Potsdam, Germany

    • Ariane Walz
  15. Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section 5.4 Hydrology, 14473 Potsdam, Germany

    • Martin Wattenbach

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Contributions

M.R., M.B., P.C. and S.I.S. conceived and designed the manuscript. D.F., M.R. and M.B. created Fig. 1, M.R. created Fig. 2 and M.D.M. and J.Z. created Fig. 3, with associated analysis and interpretation. The other co-authors contributed to specific sections. M.R. wrote the manuscript with comments and contributions from all other authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Markus Reichstein.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12350

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