Carbon cycle responses to climate change across China's terrestrial ecosystem: Sensitivity and driving process

Kewei Jiao, Zhihua Liu, Wenjuan Wang, Kailiang Yu, Matthew Joseph Mcgrath, Wenru Xu

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Investigations into the carbon cycle and how it responds to climate change at the national scale are important for a comprehensive understanding of terrestrial carbon cycle and global change issues. Contributions of carbon fluxes to the terrestrial sink and the effects on climate change are still not fully understood. In this study, we aimed to explore the relationship between ecosystem production (GPP/SIF/NDVI) and net ecosystem carbon exchange (NEE) and to investigate the sensitivity of carbon fluxes to climate change at different spatio-temporal scales. Furthermore, we sought to delve into the carbon cycle processes driven by climate stress in China since the beginning of the 21st century. To achieve these objectives, we employed correlation and sensitivity analysis techniques, utilizing a wide range of data sources including ground-based observations, remote sensing observations, atmospheric inversions, machine learning, and model simulations. Our findings indicate that NEE in most arid regions of China is primarily driven by ecosystem production. Climate variations have a greater influence on ecosystem production than respiration. Warming has negatively impacted ecosystem production in Northeast China, as well as in subtropical and tropical regions. Conversely, increased precipitation has strengthened the terrestrial carbon sink, particularly in the northern cool and dry areas. We also found that ecosystem respiration exhibits heightened sensitivity to warming in southern China. Moreover, our analysis revealed that the control of terrestrial carbon cycle by ecosystem production gradually weakens from cold/arid areas to warm/humid areas. We identified distinct temperature thresholds (ranging from 10.5 to 13.7 °C) and precipitation thresholds (approximately 1400 mm yr−1) for the transition from production-dominated to respiration-dominated processes. Our study provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between climate change and carbon cycle in China.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170053
Pages (from-to)170053
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 10 2024


  • Carbon sink
  • China
  • Climate change
  • GPP
  • Sensitivity
  • Terrestrial ecosystem


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