Ecosystems are responding to climate change and increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Interactions between these factors have rarely been assessed experimentally during and after extreme climate events despite their predicted increase in intensity and frequency and their negative impact on primary productivity and soil carbon stocks. Here, we document how a grassland exposed to a forecasted 2050s climate shows a remarkable recovery of ecosystem carbon uptake after a severe drought and heat wave, this recovery being amplified under elevated CO2. Over the growing season, elevated CO2 entirely compensated for the negative impact of extreme heat and drought on net carbon uptake. This study highlights the importance of incorporating all interacting factors in the predictions of climate change impacts.
Extreme climatic events (ECEs) such as droughts and heat waves are predicted to increase in intensity and frequency and impact the terrestrial carbon balance. However, we lack direct experimental evidence of how the net carbon uptake of ecosystems is affected by ECEs under future elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations (eCO2). Taking advantage of an advanced controlled environment facility for ecosystem research (Ecotron), we simulated eCO2 and extreme cooccurring heat and drought events as projected for the 2050s and analyzed their effects on the ecosystem-level carbon and water fluxes in a C3 grassland. Our results indicate that eCO2 not only slows down the decline of ecosystem carbon uptake during the ECE but also enhances its recovery after the ECE, as mediated by increases of root growth and plant nitrogen uptake induced by the ECE. These findings indicate that, in the predicted near future climate, eCO2 could mitigate the effects of extreme droughts and heat waves on ecosystem net carbon uptake.
Keywords: climate change extreme events elevated CO2 carbon fluxes grassland ecosystem
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