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Nature. 2017 Apr 5;544(7648):84-87. doi: 10.1038/nature22030.

Large historical growth in global terrestrial gross primary production.

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Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California, Merced, California 95343, USA.
Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.
Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, Maryland 20740, USA.
Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA.
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, IPSL, CNRS/CEA/UVSQ, 91191 Gif sur Yvette, France.
Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki 00560, Finland.


Growth in terrestrial gross primary production (GPP)-the amount of carbon dioxide that is 'fixed' into organic material through the photosynthesis of land plants-may provide a negative feedback for climate change. It remains uncertain, however, to what extent biogeochemical processes can suppress global GPP growth. As a consequence, modelling estimates of terrestrial carbon storage, and of feedbacks between the carbon cycle and climate, remain poorly constrained. Here we present a global, measurement-based estimate of GPP growth during the twentieth century that is based on long-term atmospheric carbonyl sulfide (COS) records, derived from ice-core, firn and ambient air samples. We interpret these records using a model that simulates changes in COS concentration according to changes in its sources and sinks-including a large sink that is related to GPP. We find that the observation-based COS record is most consistent with simulations of climate and the carbon cycle that assume large GPP growth during the twentieth century (31% ± 5% growth; mean ± 95% confidence interval). Although this COS analysis does not directly constrain models of future GPP growth, it does provide a global-scale benchmark for historical carbon-cycle simulations.

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