Shifting from a fertilization-dominated to a warming-dominated period

  • Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 1pages14381445 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0274-8
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Carbon dioxide and nitrogen fertilization effects on ecosystem carbon sequestration may slow down in the future because of emerging nutrient constraints, climate change reducing the effect of fertilization, and expanding land use change and land management and disturbances. Further, record high temperatures and droughts are leading to negative impacts on carbon sinks. We suggest that, together, these two phenomena might drive a shift from a period dominated by the positive effects of fertilization to a period characterized by the saturation of the positive effects of fertilization on carbon sinks and the rise of negative impacts of climate change. We discuss the evidence and processes that are likely to be leading to this shift.

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This Perspective was presented in the acceptance speech of the Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology (November 2016) by J.P. The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support from the European Research Council Synergy grant ERC-SyG-2013-610028 IMBALANCE-P, the Spanish Government grant CGL2016-79835-P and the Catalan Government grant SGR 2014-274. The authors also acknowledge the improvement of the manuscript by C. Prentice.

Author information


  1. CSIC, Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CEAB-UAB, Cerdanyola del Vallès, 08193, Catalonia, Spain

    • Josep Peñuelas
    • , Marcos Fernández-Martínez
    • , Jofre Carnicer
    •  & Jordi Sardans
  2. CREAF, Cerdanyola del Vallès, 08193, Catalonia, Spain

    • Josep Peñuelas
    • , Marcos Fernández-Martínez
    • , Jofre Carnicer
    •  & Jordi Sardans
  3. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, IPSL, 91191, Gif-sur-Yvette, France

    • Philippe Ciais
    •  & Robert Vautard
  4. Global Carbon Project, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

    • Josep G. Canadell
  5. Research Group of Plant and Vegetation Ecology (PLECO), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, B-2610, Wilrijk, Belgium

    • Ivan A. Janssens
  6. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Ecosystems Services and Management, Schlossplatz 1, A-2361, Laxenburg, Austria

    • Michael Obersteiner
  7. Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University 5 Yiheyuan Road, Haidian District, 100871, Beijing, China

    • Shilong Piao


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J.P. designed the study. J.P., P.C., M.F.-M., R.V. and J.S. conducted the analyses with support from J.C., I.A.J., J.C., M.O. and S.P. The paper was drafted by J.P. and P.C. M.F.-M., R.V., J.S., J.C., I.A.J., J.C., M.O. and S.P. contributed to the interpretation of the results and to the text.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Josep Peñuelas.