Abstract

Warming is projected to increase the productivity of northern ecosystems. However, knowledge on whether the northward displacement of vegetation productivity isolines matches that of temperature isolines is still limited. Here we compared changes in the spatial patterns of vegetation productivity and temperature using the velocity of change concept, which expresses these two variables in the same unit of displacement per time. We show that across northern regions (>50° N), the average velocity of change in growing-season normalized difference vegetation index (NDVIGS, an indicator of vegetation productivity; 2.8 ± 1.1 km yr−1) is lower than that of growing-season mean temperature (T GS; 5.4 ± 1.0 km yr−1). In fact, the NDVIGS velocity was less than half of the T GS velocity in more than half of the study area, indicating that the northward movement of productivity isolines is much slower than that of temperature isolines across the majority of northern regions (about 80% of the area showed faster changes in temperature than productivity isolines). We tentatively attribute this mismatch between the velocities of productivity and temperature to the effects of limited resource availability and vegetation acclimation mechanisms. Analyses of ecosystem model simulations further suggested that limited nitrogen availability is a crucial obstacle for vegetation to track the warming trend.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    Rosenzweig, C. et al. in Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (eds Parry, M. L. et al.) 79–131 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2007).

  2. 2.

    Elmendorf, S. C. et al. Plot-scale evidence of tundra vegetation change and links to recent summer warming. Nat. Clim. Change 2, 453–457 (2012).

  3. 3.

    Buitenwerf, R., Rose, L. & Higgins, S. I. Three decades of multi-dimensional change in global leaf phenology. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 364–368 (2015).

  4. 4.

    Vitasse, Y., Porté, A. J., Kremer, A., Michalet, R. & Delzon, S. Responses of canopy duration to temperature changes in four temperate tree species: relative contributions of spring and autumn leaf phenology. Oecologia 161, 187–198 (2009).

  5. 5.

    Wolkovich, E. M. et al. Warming experiments underpredict plant phenological responses to climate change. Nature 485, 494–497 (2012).

  6. 6.

    Wu, Z., Dijkstra, P., Koch, G. W., Peñuelas, J. & Hungate, B. A. Responses of terrestrial ecosystems to temperature and precipitation change: a meta-analysis of experimental manipulation. Glob. Change Biol. 17, 927–942 (2011).

  7. 7.

    Peñuelas, J. & Filella, I. Responses to a warming world. Science 294, 793–795 (2001).

  8. 8.

    Peñuelas, J. et al. Evidence of current impact of climate change on life: a walk from genes to the biosphere. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 2303–2338 (2013).

  9. 9.

    Hikosaka, K., Ishikawa, K., Borjigidai, A., Muller, O. & Onoda, Y. Temperature acclimation of photosynthesis: mechanisms involved in the changes in temperature dependence of photosynthetic rate. J. Exp. Bot. 57, 291–302 (2006).

  10. 10.

    Way, D. A. & Oren, R. Differential responses to changes in growth temperature between trees from different functional groups and biomes: a review and synthesis of data. Tree Physiol. 30, 669–688 (2010).

  11. 11.

    Zhu, Z. et al. Greening of the Earth and its drivers. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 791–795 (2016).

  12. 12.

    Thomas, R. Q., Canham, C. D., Weathers, K. C. & Goodale, C. L. Increased tree carbon storage in response to nitrogen deposition in the US. Nat. Geosci. 3, 13–17 (2010).

  13. 13.

    Loarie, S. R. et al. The velocity of climate change. Nature 462, 1052–1055 (2009).

  14. 14.

    Ackerly, D. et al. The geography of climate change: implications for conservation biogeography. Divers. Distrib. 16, 476–487 (2010).

  15. 15.

    Burrows, M. T. et al. The pace of shifting climate in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Science 334, 652–655 (2011).

  16. 16.

    Burrows, M. T. et al. Geographical limits to species-range shifts are suggested by climate velocity. Nature 507, 492–495 (2014).

  17. 17.

    Diffenbaugh, N. S. & Field, C. B. Changes in ecologically critical terrestrial climate conditions. Science 341, 486–492 (2013).

  18. 18.

    Dobrowski, S. Z. et al. The climate velocity of the contiguous United States during the 20th century. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 241–251 (2013).

  19. 19.

    Sandel, B. et al. The influence of Late Quaternary climate-change velocity on species endemism. Science 334, 660–664 (2011).

  20. 20.

    Bi, J., Xu, L., Samanta, A., Zhu, Z. & Myneni, R. Divergent Arctic–boreal vegetation changes between North America and Eurasia over the past 30 years. Remote Sens. 5, 2093–2112 (2013).

  21. 21.

    LoPresti, A. et al. Rate and velocity of climate change caused by cumulative carbon emissions. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 095001 (2015).

  22. 22.

    Lucht, W. et al. Climatic control of the high-latitude vegetation greening trend and Pinatubo effect. Science 296, 1687–1689 (2002).

  23. 23.

    Myneni, R. B., Keeling, C. D., Tucker, C. J., Asrar, G. & Nemani, R. R. Increased plant growth in the northern high latitudes from 1981 to 1991. Nature 386, 698–702 (1997).

  24. 24.

    Hickler, T. et al. CO2 fertilization in temperate FACE experiments not representative of boreal and tropical forests. Glob. Change Biol. 14, 1531–1542 (2008).

  25. 25.

    Schimel, D., Stephens, B. B. & Fisher, J. B. Effect of increasing CO2 on the terrestrial carbon cycle. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 436–441 (2015).

  26. 26.

    Granath, G. et al. Photosynthetic performance in Sphagnum transplanted along a latitudinal nitrogen deposition gradient. Oecologia 159, 705–715 (2009).

  27. 27.

    Livingston, N. J., Guy, R. D., Sun, Z. J. & Ethier, G. J. The effects of nitrogen stress on the stable carbon isotope composition, productivity and water use efficiency of white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) seedlings. Plant Cell Environ. 22, 281–289 (1999).

  28. 28.

    Kimball, J. S. et al. Recent climate-driven increases in vegetation productivity for the western Arctic: evidence of an acceleration of the northern terrestrial carbon cycle. Earth Interact. 11, 1–30 (2007).

  29. 29.

    Xia, J. et al. Joint control of terrestrial gross primary productivity by plant phenology and physiology. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 2788–2793 (2015).

  30. 30.

    Forkel, M. et al. Codominant water control on global interannual variability and trends in land surface phenology and greenness. Glob. Change Biol. 21, 3414–3435 (2015).

  31. 31.

    Fu, Y. H. et al. Declining global warming effects on the phenology of spring leaf unfolding. Nature 526, 104–107 (2015).

  32. 32.

    Laube, J. et al. Chilling outweighs photoperiod in preventing precocious spring development. Glob. Change Biol. 20, 170–182 (2014).

  33. 33.

    Zhang, X., Tarpley, D. & Sullivan, J. T. Diverse responses of vegetation phenology to a warming climate. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L19405 (2007).

  34. 34.

    Barichivich, J. et al. Large-scale variations in the vegetation growing season and annual cycle of atmospheric CO2 at high northern latitudes from 1950 to 2011. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 3167–3183 (2013).

  35. 35.

    Liu, Q. et al. Temperature, precipitation, and insolation effects on autumn vegetation phenology in temperate China. Glob. Change Biol. 22, 644–655 (2016).

  36. 36.

    Gepstein, S. & Thimann, K. V. Changes in the abscisic acid content of oat leaves during senescence. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 77, 2050–2053 (1980).

  37. 37.

    Nemani, R. R. et al. Climate-driven increases in global terrestrial net primary production from 1982 to 1999. Science 300, 1560–1563 (2003).

  38. 38.

    Melillo, J. M. et al. Soil warming, carbon–nitrogen interactions, and forest carbon budgets. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 9508–9512 (2011).

  39. 39.

    Frost, G. V. & Epstein, H. E. Tall shrub and tree expansion in Siberian tundra ecotones since the 1960s. Glob. Change Biol. 20, 1264–1277 (2014).

  40. 40.

    Sitch, S. et al. Evaluation of the terrestrial carbon cycle, future plant geography and climate–carbon cycle feedbacks using five dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs). Glob. Change Biol. 14, 2015–2039 (2008).

  41. 41.

    Fisher, J. B., Badgley, G. & Blyth, E. Global nutrient limitation in terrestrial vegetation. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 26, GB1014 (2012).

  42. 42.

    Smith, N. G. & Dukes, J. S. Plant respiration and photosynthesis in global-scale models: incorporating acclimation to temperature and CO2. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 45–63 (2013).

  43. 43.

    Likens, G. Long-term Studies in Ecology (Springer, New York, 1989).

  44. 44.

    Jung, M. et al. Global patterns of land–atmosphere fluxes of carbon dioxide, latent heat, and sensible heat derived from eddy covariance, satellite, and meteorological observations. J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosci. 116, G00J07 (2011).

  45. 45.

    Weedon, G. P. et al. The WFDEI meteorological forcing data set: WATCH Forcing Data methodology applied to ERA-Interim reanalysis data. Water. Resour. Res. 50, 7505–7514 (2014).

  46. 46.

    Pinzon, J. E. & Tucker, C. J. A non-stationary 1981–2012 AVHRR NDVI3g time series. Remote Sens. 6, 6929–6960 (2014).

  47. 47.

    Huete, A. et al. Overview of the radiometric and biophysical performance of the MODIS vegetation indices. Remote Sens. Environ. 83, 195–213 (2002).

  48. 48.

    Smith, W. K. et al. Large divergence of satellite and Earth system model estimates of global terrestrial CO2 fertilization. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 306–310 (2016).

  49. 49.

    Cong, N. et al. Changes in satellite-derived spring vegetation green-up date and its linkage to climate in China from 1982 to 2010: a multimethod analysis. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 881–891 (2013).

  50. 50.

    Piao, S., Fang, J., Zhou, L., Ciais, P. & Zhu, B. Variations in satellite-derived phenology in China’s temperate vegetation. Glob. Change Biol. 12, 672–685 (2006).

  51. 51.

    White, M. A. et al. Intercomparison, interpretation, and assessment of spring phenology in North America estimated from remote sensing for 1982–2006. Glob. Change Biol. 15, 2335–2359 (2009).

  52. 52.

    Zheng, B., Chenu, K. & Chapman, S. C. Velocity of temperature and flowering time in wheat-assisting breeders to keep pace with climate change. Glob. Change Biol. 22, 921–933 (2016).

  53. 53.

    Fensholt, R. & Proud, S. R. Evaluation of earth observation based global long term vegetation trends—comparing GIMMS and MODIS global NDVI time series. Remote Sens. Environ. 119, 131–147 (2012).

  54. 54.

    Piao, S. et al. Leaf onset in the Northern Hemisphere triggered by daytime temperature. Nat. Commun. 6, 6911 (2015).

  55. 55.

    Jeong, S., Ho, C.-H., Gim, H.-J. & Brown, M. E. Phenology shifts at start vs. end of growing season in temperate vegetation over the Northern Hemisphere for the period 1982–2008. Glob. Change Biol. 17, 2385–2399 (2011).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41530528), and the 111 Project (B14001). I.A.J., P.C. and J.P. were supported by the European Research Council Synergy grant SyG-2013-610028 IMBALANCE-P.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Sino-French Institute for Earth System Science, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, 100871, China

    • Mengtian Huang
    • , Shilong Piao
    • , Zaichun Zhu
    • , Donghai Wu
    • , Philippe Ciais
    • , Shushi Peng
    •  & Hui Yang
  2. Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100085, China

    • Shilong Piao
    •  & Tao Wang
  3. Center for Excellence in Tibetan Earth Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100085, China

    • Shilong Piao
    •  & Tao Wang
  4. Centre of Excellence GCE (Global Change Ecology), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610, Wilrijk, Belgium

    • Ivan A. Janssens
  5. Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, CEA CNRS UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette, 91191, France

    • Philippe Ciais
    •  & Marc Peaucelle
  6. Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, Boston, MA, 02215, USA

    • Ranga B. Myneni
  7. CREAF, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, 08193, Catalonia, Spain

    • Marc Peaucelle
    •  & Josep Peñuelas
  8. CSIC, Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CSIC-UAB, Bellaterra, Barcelona, 08193, Catalonia, Spain

    • Josep Peñuelas

Authors

  1. Search for Mengtian Huang in:

  2. Search for Shilong Piao in:

  3. Search for Ivan A. Janssens in:

  4. Search for Zaichun Zhu in:

  5. Search for Tao Wang in:

  6. Search for Donghai Wu in:

  7. Search for Philippe Ciais in:

  8. Search for Ranga B. Myneni in:

  9. Search for Marc Peaucelle in:

  10. Search for Shushi Peng in:

  11. Search for Hui Yang in:

  12. Search for Josep Peñuelas in:

Contributions

S.Pi. designed research; M.H. performed analysis; and all authors contributed to the interpretation of the results and the writing of the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shilong Piao.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Description, Supplementary Figures 1–17, Supplementary Tables 1–3, and references

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

Issue Date

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0328-y

Further reading