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Projected changes of alpine grassland carbon dynamics in response to climate change and elevated CO2 concentrations under Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenarios

By Pengfei Han, Xiaohui Lin, Wen Zhang, Guocheng Wang

Posted 01 Apr 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/595926 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215261)

The Tibetan Plateau is an important component of the global carbon cycle due to the large permafrost carbon pool and its vulnerability to climate warming. The Tibetan Plateau has experienced a noticeable warming over the past few decades and is projected to continue warming in the future. However, the direction and magnitude of carbon fluxes responses to climate change and elevated CO2 concentration under Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenarios in the Tibetan Plateau grassland are poorly known. Here, we used a calibrated and validated biogeochemistry model, CENTURY, to quantify the contributions of climate change and elevated CO2 on the future carbon budget in the alpine grassland under three RCP scenarios. Though the Tibetan Plateau grassland was projected a net carbon sink of 16 ~ 25 Tg C yr-1 in the 21st century, the capacity of carbon sequestration was predicted to decrease gradually because climate-driven increases in heterotrophic respiration (Rh) (with linear slopes 0.49 ~ 1.62 g C m-2 yr-1) was greater than the net primary production (NPP) (0.35 ~ 1.52 g C m-2 yr-1). However, the elevated CO2 contributed more to plant growth (1.9% ~ 7.3%) than decomposition (1.7% ~ 6.1%), which could offset the warming-induced carbon loss. The interannual and decadal-scale dynamics of the carbon fluxes in the alpine grassland were primarily controlled by temperature, while the role of precipitation became increasingly important in modulating carbon cycle. The strengthened correlation between precipitation and carbon budget suggested that further research should consider the performance of precipitation in evaluating carbon dynamics in a warmer climate scenario.

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