Contrasting climatic controls on the estimated productivity of global terrestrial biomes

Galina Churkina, Steven W. Running

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

379 Scopus citations


Net primary productivity (NPP) represents the great est annual carbon flux from the atmosphere to the biosphere, is an important component of seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and is the most critical biotic component of the global carbon cycle. NPP measures products of major economic and social importance, such as crop yield and forest production. Given that global NPP can not be measured directly, model simulations must provide understanding of its global spatial and temporal dynamics. In this study, we used the biogeochemical model BIOME-BGC to simulate global terrestrial NPP and assessed relative importance of climatic controls (temperature, water availability, and radiation) in limiting NPP in the array of climatic combinations found globally. The degree of limitation on NPP by climatic controls was defined by using an empirical membership function. Results showed that temperature or water availability limited NPP over larger land areas (31% and 52%, respectively) than did radiation limitation (5%). Climatic controls appeared to be important in limiting productivity in most vegetation biomes, except for evergreen broadleaf forests. Nevertheless, there were areas of the globe (12%) where none of the climatic factors appeared to limit NPP. Our research has suggested that other environmental controls, such as nutrient availability or biological constraints, should then be considered. The wide distribution of NPP between zero and the upper boundary values in the correlation plots indicated that multivariate environmental balances, not single limiting factors, controlled biospheric productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-215
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


  • Climatic controls
  • Ecosystem process model
  • Net primary productivity


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