Respiratory loss during late-growing season determines the net carbon dioxide sink in northern permafrost regions

Zhihua Liu, John S. Kimball, Ashley P. Ballantyne, Nicholas C. Parazoo, Wen J. Wang, Ana Bastos, Nima Madani, Susan M. Natali, Jennifer D. Watts, Brendan M. Rogers, Philippe Ciais, Kailiang Yu, Anna Maria Virkkala, Frederic Chevallier, Wouter Peters, Prabir K. Patra, Naveen Chandra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Warming of northern high latitude regions (NHL, > 50 °N) has increased both photosynthesis and respiration which results in considerable uncertainty regarding the net carbon dioxide (CO2) balance of NHL ecosystems. Using estimates constrained from atmospheric observations from 1980 to 2017, we find that the increasing trends of net CO2 uptake in the early-growing season are of similar magnitude across the tree cover gradient in the NHL. However, the trend of respiratory CO2 loss during late-growing season increases significantly with increasing tree cover, offsetting a larger fraction of photosynthetic CO2 uptake, and thus resulting in a slower rate of increasing annual net CO2 uptake in areas with higher tree cover, especially in central and southern boreal forest regions. The magnitude of this seasonal compensation effect explains the difference in net CO2 uptake trends along the NHL vegetation- permafrost gradient. Such seasonal compensation dynamics are not captured by dynamic global vegetation models, which simulate weaker respiration control on carbon exchange during the late-growing season, and thus calls into question projections of increasing net CO2 uptake as high latitude ecosystems respond to warming climate conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5626
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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