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Volume 9 Issue 11, November 2019

River flows driven by plant CO2 responses

Climate change is expected to impact river flows globally through both precipitation responses to CO2 increases and plant-physiological changes that modify runoff, but the relative importance of these drivers for basin-wide hydrologic change remains uncertain. Here, using Earth System Model (ESM) experiments, Fowler et al. show that plant physiological responses to increased CO2, rather than atmospheric changes, are the primary drivers of mean, peak and low flows throughout the tropics.

See Fowler et al.

Image: Joe Klementovich/Aurora Photos/Getty. Cover Design: Tulsi Voralia.


  • The broad-scale impacts and mechanisms of physical climate change are scientifically well-understood, but specific estimates of these impacts are associated with uncertainty that is challenging to communicate. How scientists communicate uncertainty affects public trust and acceptance of the research.



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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • The consequences of global warming will be dire, but the full extent of these effects on society is unknown and includes uncertainties. Research now suggests that how scientists communicate about the uncertainty over such climate change impacts can influence the public’s trust and acceptance of this information.

    • Emily H. Ho
    • David V. Budescu
    News & Views
  • Predicting coral bleaching is critical to better manage and preserve coral reefs from global warming. An impressive coordination of surveys across oceans now offers new metrics to help to predict coral bleaching events on a global scale.

    • Mathieu Pernice
    • David J. Hughes
    News & Views
  • The effects of global warming are felt earlier in Arctic regions than elsewhere in the world. Now research shows that Arctic marine food webs can adapt to climate change — but the study authors warn that this impression of resilience may be false in the long term.

    • Johanna Yletyinen
    News & Views
  • Warming in the Arctic is causing soils to decompose more rapidly, even during winter. Now, estimates of winter carbon dioxide loss indicate that it can offset carbon gains during the growing season, meaning that the region is a source of carbon.

    • John L. Campbell
    News & Views
  • Observations reveal recent Arctic warming, but future societal impacts are poorly understood. Now research identifies potential abrupt thaw-driven soil moisture shifts, with consequences for northern development including more intense wildfires and rainfall.

    • Barret L. Kurylyk
    News & Views
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  • Ecosystem response to climate change will vary in amplitude and dynamically, which may not be captured in current experimental design. This Perspective presents experimental design improvements to better predict responses and thus facilitate understanding of future impacts.

    • Francois Rineau
    • Robert Malina
    • Jaco Vangronsveld
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Review Articles

  • Transformation of the land sector is required to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 °C. Here, modelled emission pathways and mitigation strategies are reviewed. A land-sector roadmap of priority measures and key regions is presented.

    • Stephanie Roe
    • Charlotte Streck
    • Deborah Lawrence
    Review Article
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  • Increasingly, financial institutions will be exposed to climate risks that will exacerbate the negative economic impacts of climate change. An agent-based integrated assessment model is used to analyse climate impacts on the global banking system, finding an increase in banking crises and public bailout costs.

    • Francesco Lamperti
    • Valentina Bosetti
    • Massimo Tavoni
  • Ocean warming and acidification will affect the structure and bioavailability of biomolecules. The toxic form of two neurotoxins will increase with climate change, presenting an ecotoxicology risk with global hotspots as exemplified by saxitoxin toxicity in Alaskan butter clam.

    • C. C. Roggatz
    • N. Fletcher
    • J. D. Hardege
  • Improved predictions of coral bleaching are critical. In a coordinated global survey effort during the 2016 El Niño, time-series patterns of peak hot temperatures, cool period durations and temperature bimodality were found to be better predictors of coral bleaching than common threshold metrics.

    • Tim R. McClanahan
    • Emily S. Darling
    • Julien Leblond
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  • The resilience of a marine food web to climate change is investigated through a combination of multiple and nested species interactions. The Kongsfjorden food web adapts and maintains core ecological processes during change, with increasing dominance of Atlantic species boosting resilience.

    • Gary P. Griffith
    • Haakon Hop
    • Geir Wing Gabrielsen
  • Predicting mortality in forests is challenging because its underlying causes are spatially varied and not well known. Reduced resilience detected from remotely sensed time series of vegetation dynamics can serve as an effective early warning signal to indicate the potential for forest mortality.

    • Yanlan Liu
    • Mukesh Kumar
    • Amilcare Porporato


  • The subnivium—the space between snowpack and the ground—is an insulating refuge from winter cold. This study predicts that climate warming decreases the subnivium’s seasonal duration yet increases snow-free days with frozen ground, making winter functionally colder for subnivium-dependent life.

    • Likai Zhu
    • Anthony R. Ives
    • Volker C. Radeloff
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Amendments & Corrections

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