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


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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Fig. 1: CO2 and temperature sensitivity of annual amplitude (AMP).
Fig. 2: Warming impacts on C storage in the tropics, mid-latitudes and boreal and arctic zones.
Fig. 3: Schematics showing the impacts and feedbacks of the drivers of global change on C sinks by their effects on productivity and C residence time.


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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.

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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.

Correspondence to Josep Peñuelas.

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Peñuelas, J., Ciais, P., Canadell, J.G. et al. Shifting from a fertilization-dominated to a warming-dominated period. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 1438–1445 (2017).

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