, Volume 51, Issue 8, pp 1129-1143
Date: 16 Jul 2008

Spatio-temporal patterns of forest carbon dioxide exchange based on global eddy covariance measurements

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Spatio-temporal patterns and driving mechanisms of forest carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange are the key issues on terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycles, which are the basis for developing and validating ecosystem carbon cycle models, assessing and predicting the role of forests in global carbon balance. Eddy covariance (EC) technique, an important method for measuring energy and material exchanges between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere, has made a great contribution to understanding CO2 exchanges in the biosphere during the past decade. Here, we synthesized published EC flux measurements at various forest sites in the global network of eddy flux tower sites (FLUXNET) and regional flux networks. Our objective was to explore spatio-temporal patterns and driving factors on forest carbon fluxes, i.e. net ecosystem productivity (NEP), gross primary productivity (GPP) and total ecosystem respiration (TER). Globally, forest NEP exhibited a significant latitudinal pattern jointly controlled by GPP and TER. The NEP decreased in an order of warm temperate forest > cold temperate and tropical rain forests > boreal and subalpine forests. Mean annual temperature (MAT) made a greater contribution to forest carbon fluxes than sum of annual precipitation (SAP). As MAT increased, the GPP increased linearly, whereas the TER increased exponentially, resulting in the NEP decreasing beyond an MAT threshold of 20°C. The GPP, TER and NEP varied substantially when the SAP was less than 1500 mm, but tended to increase with increasing SAP. Temporal dynamics in forest carbon fluxes and determinants depended upon time scales. NEP showed a significant interannual variability mainly driven by climate fluctuations and different responses of the GPP and TER to environmental forcing. In a longer term, forest carbon fluxes had a significant age effect. The ecosystem was a net carbon source right after clear-cutting, gradually switched to a net carbon sink when the relative stand age (i.e. ratio of actual stand age to the stand rotation age) approached 0.3, and maximized carbon sequestration capacity at pre-mature or mature stand stages. This temporal pattern of NEP was correlated with stand leaf area index and associated GPP. This study highlights the significance of spatio-temporal dynamics in the CO2 exchange in forest carbon cycling studies. It is also suggested that in addition to forest biomes, interannual variations and stand age effects of forest carbon fluxes should be considered in the global carbon balance.

Supported by “115” Science and Technology Supporting Program of China (Grant No. 2006BAD03A0703) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 30625010 and 30590381)