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Increased greenhouse-gas intensity of rice production under future atmospheric conditions


Increased atmospheric CO2 and rising temperatures are expected to affect rice yields and greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions from rice paddies1,2,3,4. This is important, because rice cultivation is one of the largest human-induced sources of the potent GHG methane5 (CH4) and rice is the world’s second-most produced staple crop6. The need for meeting a growing global food demand7 argues for assessing GHG emissions from croplands on the basis of yield rather than land area8,9,10, such that efforts to reduce GHG emissions take into consideration the consequences for food production. However, it is unclear whether or how the GHG intensity (that is, yield-scaled GHG emissions) of cropping systems will be affected by future atmospheric conditions. Here we show, using meta-analysis, that increased atmospheric CO2 (ranging from 550 to 743 ppmV) and warming (ranging from +0.8 °C to +6 °C) both increase the GHG intensity of rice cultivation. Increased atmospheric CO2 increased GHG intensity by 31.4%, because CH4 emissions are stimulated more than rice yields. Warming increased GHG intensity by 11.8% per 1 °C, largely owing to a decrease in yield. This analysis suggests that rising CO2 and warming will approximately double the GHG intensity of rice production by the end of the twenty-first century, stressing the need for management practices that optimize rice production while reducing its GHG intensity as the climate continues to change.

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Figure 1: Results of a meta-analysis on the response of CH4 emissions, yield, yield-scaled CH4 emissions and root biomass from rice paddies to increased levels of atmospheric CO2 and warming.
Figure 2: Effects of warming on rice yield and yield-scaled CH4 emissions versus the control temperatures in warming experiments.


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Many thanks to C. Osenberg for advice on the statistical analysis and for valuable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank W. Cheng for sharing unpublished data with us. Financial support for this study was provided by the US National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology (DEB-0949460), the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science (BER) through the Western Regional Center of the National Institute for Climatic Change Research at Northern Arizona University, and the Irish Research Council co-funded by Marie Curie Actions under FP7.

Author information




K.J.v.G. designed the investigation. K.J.v.G. and C.v.K extracted the data from the literature. K.J.v.G. and B.A.H. performed the statistical analyses. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kees Jan van Groenigen.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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van Groenigen, K., van Kessel, C. & Hungate, B. Increased greenhouse-gas intensity of rice production under future atmospheric conditions. Nature Clim Change 3, 288–291 (2013).

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