Climatic Change

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 199–227

The Potential Response of Terrestrial Carbon Storage to Changes in Climate and Atmospheric CO2


  • Anthony W. King
    • Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Wilfred M. Post
    • Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Stan D. Wullschleger
    • Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National Laboratory

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005317530770

Cite this article as:
King, A.W., Post, W.M. & Wullschleger, S.D. Climatic Change (1997) 35: 199. doi:10.1023/A:1005317530770


We use a georeferenced model of ecosystem carbon dynamics to explore the sensitivity of global terrestrial carbon storage to changes in atmospheric CO2 and climate. We model changes in ecosystem carbon density, but we do not model shifts in vegetation type. A model of annual NPP is coupled with a model of carbon allocation in vegetation and a model of decomposition and soil carbon dynamics. NPP is a function of climate and atmospheric CO2 concentration. The CO2 response is derived from a biochemical model of photosynthesis. With no change in climate, a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 560 ppm enhances equilibrium global NPP by 16.9%; equilibrium global terrestrial ecosystem carbon (TEC) increases by 14.9%. Simulations with no change in atmospheric CO2 concentration but changes in climate from five atmospheric general circulation models yield increases in global NPP of 10.0–14.8%. The changes in NPP are very nearly balanced by changes in decomposition, and the resulting changes in TEC range from an increase of 1.1% to a decrease of 1.1%. These results are similar to those from analyses using bioclimatic biome models that simulate shifts in ecosystem distribution but do not model changes in carbon density within vegetation types. With changes in both climate and a doubling of atmospheric CO2, our model generates increases in NPP of 30.2–36.5%. The increases in NPP and litter inputs to the soil more than compensate for any climate stimulation of decomposition and lead to increases in global TEC of 15.4–18.2%.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997