Article | Published:

Convergence of terrestrial plant production across global climate gradients

Nature volume 512, pages 3943 (07 August 2014) | Download Citation

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 18 May 2016

This article has been updated

Abstract

Variation in terrestrial net primary production (NPP) with climate is thought to originate from a direct influence of temperature and precipitation on plant metabolism. However, variation in NPP may also result from an indirect influence of climate by means of plant age, stand biomass, growing season length and local adaptation. To identify the relative importance of direct and indirect climate effects, we extend metabolic scaling theory to link hypothesized climate influences with NPP, and assess hypothesized relationships using a global compilation of ecosystem woody plant biomass and production data. Notably, age and biomass explained most of the variation in production whereas temperature and precipitation explained almost none, suggesting that climate indirectly (not directly) influences production. Furthermore, our theory shows that variation in NPP is characterized by a common scaling relationship, suggesting that global change models can incorporate the mechanisms governing this relationship to improve predictions of future ecosystem function.

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Change history

  • 06 August 2014

    Figure 3 y-axis label was incorrect and has been fixed.

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Acknowledgements

S.T.M. and B.J.E. were supported by an NSF MacroSystems award (1065861) and a fellowship from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. D.C. was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31170374 and 31370589) and Fujian Natural Science Funds for Distinguished Young Scholar (2013J06009). A.J.K. was supported by a sabbatical supplement from Kenyon College, and by a National Science Foundation ROA supplement (1065861) to the NSF MacroSystems award (1065861) to B.J.E.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Sean T. Michaletz
    •  & Brian J. Enquist
  2. Key Laboratory of Humid Subtropical Eco-geographical Process, Fujian Normal University, Ministry of Education, Fuzhou, Fujian Province 350007, China

    • Dongliang Cheng
  3. Department of Biology, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022, USA

    • Andrew J. Kerkhoff
  4. The Santa Fe Institute, USA, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, USA

    • Brian J. Enquist
  5. The iPlant Collaborative, Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building, 1657 East Helen Street, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Brian J. Enquist
  6. Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, 100 Puppy Smith Street, Aspen, Colorado 81611, USA

    • Brian J. Enquist

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Contributions

S.T.M., D.C., A.J.K. and B.J.E. compiled data, developed theory, performed analyses and wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Dongliang Cheng or Brian J. Enquist.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13470

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