Vegetation pattern shift as a result of rising atmospheric CO2 in arid ecosystems.
Arid ecosystems are expected to be among the ecosystems most sensitive to climate change. Here, we explore via model calculations how regular vegetation patterns, widely observed in arid ecosystems, respond to projected climatic shifts as provided by general circulation model output. In our model, the photosynthesis and respiration terms are explicitly linked to physiological attributes of the plants and are forced with the primary climatic drivers: atmospheric CO(2), air temperature, and precipitation. Under future climate scenarios, our simulations show that the system's fate depends on whether the enhancements to photosynthesis due to elevated atmospheric CO(2) outweigh the increases in respiration due to higher air temperatures and the increases in water stress due to lower rainfall. A scalar measure is proposed to quantify this balance between the changes in the three climate drivers. Our model results suggest that knowing how the three primary climate drivers are evolving may provide hints as to whether the ecosystem is approaching desertification.
Kefi, S; Rietkerk, M; Katul, GG
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