AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on global vegetation climate feedback

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on May 12, 2011

This is a list of papers on the climate feedback of global vegetation. As the title suggests, emphasis is on global analysis, but papers concerning large regions might also be included. Especially northern parts of the planet are important in this issue. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

Vegetation feedback under future global warming – Jiang et al. (2011) “It has been well documented that vegetation plays an important role in the climate system. However, vegetation is typically kept constant when climate models are used to project anthropogenic climate change under a range of emission scenarios in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Emission Scenarios. Here, an atmospheric general circulation model, and an asynchronously coupled system of an atmospheric and an equilibrium terrestrial biosphere model are forced by monthly sea surface temperature and sea ice extent for the periods 2051–2060 and 2090–2098 as projected with 17 atmosphere–ocean general circulation models participating in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and by appropriate atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations under the A2 emission scenario. The effects of vegetation feedback under future global warming are then investigated. It is found that the simulated composition and distribution of vegetation during 2051–2060 (2090–2098) differ greatly from the present, and global vegetation tends to become denser as expressed by a 21% (36%) increase in global mean leaf area index, which is most pronounced at the middle and high northern latitudes. Vegetation feedback has little effect on globally averaged surface temperature. On a regional scale, however, it induces statistically significant changes in surface temperature, in particular over most parts of continental Eurasia east of about 60°E where annual surface temperature is expected to increase by 0.1–1.0 K, with an average of about 0.4 K for each future period. These changes can mostly be explained by changes in surface albedo resulting from vegetation changes in the context of future global warming.” Dabang Jiang, Ying Zhang and Xianmei Lang, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, DOI: 10.1007/s00704-011-0428-6.

Impact of vegetation feedback on the temperature and its diurnal range over the Northern Hemisphere during summer in a 2 × CO2 climate – Jeong et al. (2010) “This study examines the potential impact of vegetation feedback on the changes in the diurnal temperature range (DTR) due to the doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations during summer over the Northern Hemisphere using a global climate model equipped with a dynamic vegetation model. Results show that CO2 doubling induces significant increases in the daily mean temperature and decreases in DTR regardless of the presence of the vegetation feedback effect. In the presence of vegetation feedback, increase in vegetation productivity related to warm and humid climate lead to (1) an increase in vegetation greenness in the mid-latitude and (2) a greening and the expansion of grasslands and boreal forests into the tundra region in the high latitudes. The greening via vegetation feedback induces contrasting effects on the temperature fields between the mid- and high-latitude regions. In the mid-latitudes, the greening further limits the increase in T max more than T min, resulting in further decreases in DTR because the greening amplifies evapotranspiration and thus cools daytime temperature. The greening in high-latitudes, however, it reinforces the warming by increasing T max more than T min to result in a further increase in DTR from the values obtained without vegetation feedback. This effect on T max and DTR in the high latitude is mainly attributed to the reduction in surface albedo and the subsequent increase in the absorbed insolation. Present study indicates that vegetation feedback can alter the response of the temperature field to increases in CO2 mainly by affecting the T max and that its effect varies with the regional climate characteristics as a function of latitudes.” Su-Jong Jeong, Chang-Hoi Ho, Tae-Won Park, Jinwon Kim and Samuel Levis, Climate Dynamics, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-010-0827-x. [Full text]

Quantifying the negative feedback of vegetation to greenhouse warming: A modeling approach – Bounoua et al. (2010) “Several climate models indicate that in a 2 × CO2 environment, temperature and precipitation would increase and runoff would increase faster than precipitation. These models, however, did not allow the vegetation to increase its leaf density as a response to the physiological effects of increased CO2 and consequent changes in climate. Other assessments included these interactions but did not account for the vegetation down-regulation to reduce plant’s photosynthetic activity and as such resulted in a weak vegetation negative response. When we combine these interactions in climate simulations with 2 × CO2, the associated increase in precipitation contributes primarily to increase evapotranspiration rather than surface runoff, consistent with observations, and results in an additional cooling effect not fully accounted for in previous simulations with elevated CO2. By accelerating the water cycle, this feedback slows but does not alleviate the projected warming, reducing the land surface warming by 0.6°C. Compared to previous studies, these results imply that long term negative feedback from CO2-induced increases in vegetation density could reduce temperature following a stabilization of CO2 concentration.” Bounoua, L., F. G. Hall, P. J. Sellers, A. Kumar, G. J. Collatz, C. J. Tucker, and M. L. Imhoff (2010), Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L23701, doi:10.1029/2010GL045338. [Full text]

Expansion of the world’s deserts due to vegetation-albedo feedback under global warming – Zeng & Yoon (2009) “Many subtropical regions are expected to become drier due to climate change. This will lead to reduced vegetation which may in turn amplify the initial drying. Using a coupled atmosphere-ocean-land model with a dynamic vegetation component that predicts surface albedo change, here we simulate the climate change from 1901 to 2099 with CO2 and other forcings. In a standard IPCC-style simulation, the model simulated an increase in the world’s ‘warm desert’ area of 2.5 million km2 or 10% at the end of the 21st century. In a more realistic simulation where the vegetation-albedo feedback was allowed to interact, the ‘warm desert’ area expands by 8.5 million km2 or 34%. This occurs mostly as an expansion of the world’s major subtropical deserts such as the Sahara, the Kalahari, the Gobi, and the Great Sandy Desert. It is suggested that vegetation-albedo feedback should be fully included in IPCC future climate projections.” Zeng, N., and J. Yoon (2009), Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L17401, doi:10.1029/2009GL039699. [Full text]

Global negative vegetation feedback to climate warming responses of leaf litter decomposition rates in cold biomes – Cornelissen et al. (2007) “Whether climate change will turn cold biomes from large long-term carbon sinks into sources is hotly debated because of the great potential for ecosystem-mediated feedbacks to global climate. Critical are the direction, magnitude and generality of climate responses of plant litter decomposition. Here, we present the first quantitative analysis of the major climate-change-related drivers of litter decomposition rates in cold northern biomes worldwide. Leaf litters collected from the predominant species in 33 global change manipulation experiments in circum-arctic-alpine ecosystems were incubated simultaneously in two contrasting arctic life zones. We demonstrate that longer-term, large-scale changes to leaf litter decomposition will be driven primarily by both direct warming effects and concomitant shifts in plant growth form composition, with a much smaller role for changes in litter quality within species. Specifically, the ongoing warming-induced expansion of shrubs with recalcitrant leaf litter across cold biomes would constitute a negative feedback to global warming. Depending on the strength of other (previously reported) positive feedbacks of shrub expansion on soil carbon turnover, this may partly counteract direct warming enhancement of litter decomposition.” Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, Peter M. Van Bodegom, Rien Aerts, Terry V. Callaghan, Richard S.P. Van Logtestijn, Juha Alatalo, F. Stuart Chapin, Renato Gerdol, Jon Gudmundsson, Dylan Gwynn-Jones, Anne E. Hartley, David S. Hik, Annika Hofgaard, Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir, Staffan Karlsson, Julia A. Klein, Jim Laundre, Borgthor Magnusson, Anders Michelsen, Ulf Molau, Vladimir G. Onipchenko, Helen M. Quested, Sylvi M. Sandvik, Inger K. Schmidt, Gus R. Shaver, Bjørn Solheim, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Anna Stenström, Anne Tolvanen, Ørjan Totland, Naoya Wada, Jeffrey M. Welker, Xinquan Zhao, M.O.L. Team, Ecology Letters, Volume 10, Issue 7, pages 619–627, July 2007, DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2007.01051.x. [Full text]

Assessing Global Vegetation–Climate Feedbacks from Observations – Liu et al. (2006) “The feedback between global vegetation greenness and surface air temperature and precipitation is assessed using remote sensing observations of monthly fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (FPAR) for 1982 to 2000 with a 2.5° grid resolution. Lead/lag correlations are used to infer vegetation–climate interactions. Furthermore, a statistical method is used to quantify the efficiency of vegetation feedback on climate in the observations. This feedback analysis provides a first quantitative assessment of global vegetation feedback on climate. In northern mid- and high latitudes, vegetation variability is found to be driven predominantly by temperature; in the meantime, vegetation also exerts a strong positive feedback on temperature with the feedback accounting for over 10%–25% of the total monthly temperature variance. The strongest positive feedback occurs in the boreal regions of southern Canada/northern United States, northern Europe, and southern Siberia, where the feedback efficiency exceeds 1°C (0.1 FPAR)−1. Over most of the Tropics and subtropics (outside the equatorial rain belt), vegetation is driven primarily by precipitation. However, little vegetation feedback is found on local precipitation when averaged year-round, with the feedback explained variance usually accounting for less than 5% of the total precipitation variance. Nevertheless, in a few isolated small regions such as Northeast Brazil, East Africa, East Asia, and northern Australia, there appears to be some positive vegetation feedback on local precipitation, with the feedback efficiency over 1 cm month−1 (0.1 FPAR)−1. Further studies suggest a significant seasonal variation of the vegetation feedback in some regions. A preliminary analysis also seems to suggest an enhanced intensity of the vegetation feedback, especially on precipitation, at longer time scales and over a larger grid box area. Limitations and implications of the assessment of vegetation feedback are also discussed. The assessed vegetation feedback is shown to be valuable for the evaluation of vegetation–climate feedback in coupled climate–vegetation models.” Liu, Zhengyu, M. Notaro, J. Kutzbach, Naizhuang Liu, 2006, J. Climate, 19, 787–814, doi: 10.1175/JCLI3658.1. [Full text]

Quantifying the effect of vegetation dynamics on the climate of the Last Glacial Maximum – Jahn et al. (2005) “The importance of the biogeophysical atmosphere-vegetation feedback in comparison with the radiative effect of lower atmospheric CO2 concentrations and the presence of ice sheets at the last glacial maximum (LGM) is investigated with the climate system model CLIMBER-2. Equilibrium experiments reveal that most of the global cooling at the LGM (-5.1°C) relative to (natural) present-day conditions is caused by the introduction of ice sheets into the model (-3.0°C), followed by the effect of lower atmospheric CO2 levels at the LGM (-1.5°C), while a synergy between these two factors appears to be very small on global average. The biogeophysical effects of changes in vegetation cover are found to cool the global LGM climate by 0.6°C. The latter are most pronounced in the northern high latitudes, where the taiga-tundra feedback causes annually averaged temperature changes of up to -2.0°C, while the radiative effect of lower atmospheric CO2 in this region only produces a cooling of 1.5°C. Hence, in this region, the temperature changes caused by vegetation dynamics at the LGM exceed the cooling due to lower atmospheric CO2 concentrations.” Jahn, A., Claussen, M., Ganopolski, A., and Brovkin, V., Clim. Past, 1, 1-7, doi:10.5194/cp-1-1-2005, 2005. [Full text]

Coupled atmosphere-ocean-vegetation simulations for modern and mid-Holocene climates: role of extratropical vegetation cover feedbacks – Gallimore et al. et al. (2005) “A full global atmosphere-ocean-land vegetation model is used to examine the coupled climate/vegetation changes in the extratropics between modern and mid-Holocene (6,000 year BP) times and to assess the feedback of vegetation cover changes on the climate response. The model produces a relatively realistic natural vegetation cover and a climate sensitivity comparable to that realized in previous studies. The simulated mid-Holocene climate led to an expansion of boreal forest cover into polar tundra areas (mainly due to increased summer/fall warmth) and an expansion of middle latitude grass cover (due to a combination of enhanced temperature seasonality with cold winters and interior drying of the continents). The simulated poleward expansion of boreal forest and middle latitude expansion of grass cover are consistent with previous modeling studies. The feedback effect of expanding boreal forest in polar latitudes induced a significant spring warming and reduced snow cover that partially countered the response produced by the orbitally induced changes in radiative forcing. The expansion of grass cover in middle latitudes worked to reinforce the orbital forcing by contributing a spring cooling, enhanced snow cover, and a delayed soil water input by snow melt. Locally, summer rains tended to increase (decrease) in areas with greatest tree cover increases (decreases); however, for the broad-scale polar and middle latitude domains the climate responses produced by the changes in vegetation are relatively much smaller in summer/fall than found in previous studies. This study highlights the need to develop a more comprehensive strategy for investigating vegetation feedbacks.” Robert Gallimore, Robert Jacob and John Kutzbach, Climate Dynamics, Volume 25, Numbers 7-8, 755-776, DOI: 10.1007/s00382-005-0054-z. [Full text]

The effect of vegetation on surface temperature: A statistical analysis of NDVI and climate data – Kaufmann et al. (2003) “We use statistical techniques to quantify the effect of interannual variations in vegetation within land covers on surface temperature in North America and Eurasia from satellite measures of surface greenness and ground based meteorological observations. During the winter, reductions in the extent of snow cover cause (in a statistical sense) temperature to rise. During the summer, increases in terrestrial vegetation within land covers cause (in a statistical sense) temperature to fall. Temperature-induced increases in vegetation have slowed increases in surface temperature, but this feedback may be limited by the range over which temperature has a positive effect on vegetation.” Kaufmann, R. K., L. Zhou, R. B. Myneni, C. J. Tucker, D. Slayback, N. V. Shabanov, and J. Pinzon (2003), Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(22), 2147, doi:10.1029/2003GL018251. [Full text]

Green surprise? How terrestrial ecosystems could affect earth’s climate – Foley et al. (2003) “While the earth’s climate can affect the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, the process also works in reverse. As a result, changes in terrestrial ecosystems may influence climate through both biophysical and biogeochemical processes. This two-way link between the physical climate system and the biosphere is under increasing scrutiny. We review recent developments in the analysis of this interaction, focusing in particular on how alterations in the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, through either human land-use practices or global climate change, may affect the future of the earth’s climate.” Jonathan A. Foley, Marcos Heil Costa, Christine Delire, Navin Ramankutty, and Peter Snyder. 2003, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1: 38–44, doi:10.1890/1540-9295(2003)001[0038:GSHTEC]2.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Using Satellite Data Assimilation to Infer Global Soil Moisture Status and Vegetation Feedback to Climate – Knorr & Schultz (2003) “The importance of land surface and vegetation characteristics for climate has long been hypothesisized and is reflected by increasingly sophisticated land surface schemesused in climate models. However, accurate parameterisation of land surface processes is still hampered by the complexity of the processes, and by data availability at the global scale required for general circulation models. It is, therefore, desirable to utilise additional data sources for land surface models, of which satellite data appear to be the most promising in terms of availability and spatial and temporal coverage. Here, monthly satellite-derived fields of the fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (fAPAR) are assimilated into a land surface and vegetation model, the Biosphere Energy-Transfer Hydrology scheme (BETHY). Assimilation offers the advantage that uncertainties of both the satellite-derived fAPAR and model parameters can be accounted for. Since fAPAR can also be predicted by the model, this information is not discarded as in other approaches where satellite data are used as forcing. During assimilation, a number of model parameters are adjusted until a cost function reaches its minimum. This cost function is defined by the squared deviation between monthly model-simulated and satellite-derived fAPAR as well as between initial and adjusted model parameters, both normalised by their assumed error variances. One of the adjusted parameters, the maximum plant-available soil moisture, is used in a subsequent sensitivity study with the ECHAM-4 climate model. The results show that changes in this parameter as a result of satellite data assimilation can lead to significant changes in simulated soil moisture and 2m air temperature over large parts of the tropics, where soil water storage is usually underestimated in climate and vegetation models. A comparison of BETHY simulations with soil water measurements from Amazonia supports this finding, and also shows that using fAPAR as forcing would have lead to inconsistencies between the carbon balance, predicting a strong decrease in fAPAR at negative carbon gains, and the value of fAPAR prescribed from the satellite data. The study aims at demonstrating the potential of assimilating satellite data into land surface models, as well as the significance of vegetation for the land surface climate. It is further intended to indicate a methodology for the assimilation of satellite data into general circulation models that include an interactive, i.e. climate-responsive, vegetation component.” Wolfgang Knorr and Jan-Peter Schulz, Remote Sensing and Climate Modeling: Synergies and Limitations, Advances in Global Change Research, 2003, Volume 7, 273-306, DOI: 10.1007/0-306-48149-9_12.

Nonlinear Dynamics in a Coupled Vegetation–Atmosphere System and Implications for Desert–Forest Gradient – Zeng et al. (2002) “Although the global vegetation distribution is largely controlled by the large-scale climate pattern, the observed vegetation–rainfall relationship is also influenced by vegetation feedback and climate variability. Using a simplified coupled atmosphere–vegetation model, this work focuses on the effects of these on the gradient of desert–forest transition. A positive feedback from interactive vegetation leads to a wetter and greener state everywhere compared to a state without vegetation. As a result, the gradient in vegetation and rainfall is enhanced at places with moderate rainfall. Climate variability is found to reduce vegetation and rainfall in higher rainfall regions, while enhancing them in lower rainfall regions, thus smoothing out the desert–forest gradient. This latter effect is due to the nonlinear vegetation response to precipitation and it is particularly effective in the savanna regions. The analyses explain results from a three-dimensional climate model. The results suggest that in a varying environment, vegetation plays an active role in determining the observed vegetation–rainfall distributions.” Zeng, Ning, Katrina Hales, J. David Neelin, 2002, J. Climate, 15, 3474–3487, doi: 10.1175/1520-0442(2002)0152.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Sensitivity of Climate to Changes in NDVI – Bounoua et al. (2005) “The sensitivity of global and regional climate to changes in vegetation density is investigated using a coupled biosphere–atmosphere model. The magnitude of the vegetation changes and their spatial distribution are based on natural decadal variability of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Different scenarios using maximum and minimum vegetation cover were derived from satellite records spanning the period 1982–90. Albedo decreased in the northern latitudes and increased in the Tropics with increased NDVI. The increase in vegetation density revealed that the vegetation’s physiological response was constrained by the limits of the available water resources. The difference between the maximum and minimum vegetation scenarios resulted in a 46% increase in absorbed visible solar radiation and a similar increase in gross photosynthetic CO2 uptake on a global annual basis. This increase caused the canopy transpiration and interception fluxes to increase and reduced those from the soil. The redistribution of the surface energy fluxes substantially reduced the Bowen ratio during the growing season, resulting in cooler and moister near-surface climate, except when soil moisture was limiting. Important effects of increased vegetation on climate are •a cooling of about 1.8 K in the northern latitudes during the growing season and a slight warming during the winter, which is primarily due to the masking of high albedo of snow by a denser canopy; and •a year-round cooling of 0.8 K in the Tropics. These results suggest that increases in vegetation density could partially compensate for parallel increases in greenhouse warming. Increasing vegetation density globally caused both evapotranspiration and precipitation to increase. Evapotranspiration, however, increased more than precipitation, resulting in a global soil-water deficit of about 15%. A spectral analysis on the simulated results showed that changes in the state of vegetation could affect the low-frequency modes of the precipitation distribution and might reduce its low-frequency variability in the Tropics while increasing it in northern latitudes.” Bounoua, L., G. J. Collatz, S. O. Los, P. J. Sellers, D. A. Dazlich, C. J. Tucker, D. A. Randall, 2000, J. Climate, 13, 2277–2292, doi: 10.1175/1520-0442(2000)0132.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Large-Scale Vegetation Feedbacks on a Doubled CO2 Climate – Levis et al. (2000) “Changes in vegetation cover are known to influence the climate system by modifying the radiative, momentum, and hydrologic balance of the land surface. To explore the interactions between terrestrial vegetation and the atmosphere for doubled atmospheric CO2 concentrations, the newly developed fully coupled GENESIS–IBIS climate–vegetation model is used. The simulated climatic response to the radiative and physiological effects of elevated CO2 concentrations, as well as to ensuing simulated shifts in global vegetation patterns is investigated. The radiative effects of elevated CO2 concentrations raise temperatures and intensify the hydrologic cycle on the global scale. In response, soil moisture increases in the mid- and high latitudes by 4% and 5%, respectively. Tropical soil moisture, however, decreases by 5% due to a decrease in precipitation minus evapotranspiration. The direct, physiological response of plants to elevated CO2 generally acts to weaken the earth’s hydrologic cycle by lowering transpiration rates across the globe. Lowering transpiration alone would tend to enhance soil moisture. However, reduced recirculation of water in the atmosphere, which lowers precipitation, leads to more arid conditions overall (simulated global soil moisture decreases by 1%), particularly in the Tropics and midlatitudes. Allowing structural changes in the vegetation cover (in response to changes in climate and CO2 concentrations) overrides the direct physiological effects of CO2 on vegetation in many regions. For example, increased simulated forest cover in the Tropics enhances canopy evapotranspiration overall, offsetting the decreased transpiration due to lower leaf conductance. As a result of increased circulation of moisture through the hydrologic cycle, precipitation increases and soil moisture returns to the value simulated with just the radiative effects of elevated CO2. However, in the highly continental midlatitudes, changes in vegetation cover cause soil moisture to decline by an additional 2%. Here, precipitation does not respond sufficiently to increased plant-water uptake, due to a limited source of external moisture into the region. These results illustrate that vegetation feedbacks may operate differently according to regional characteristics of the climate and vegetation cover. In particular, it is found that CO2 fertilization can cause either an increase or a decrease in available soil moisture, depending on the associated changes in vegetation cover and the ability of the regional climate to recirculate water vapor. This is in direct contrast to the view that CO2 fertilization will enhance soil moisture and runoff across the globe: a view that neglects changes in vegetation structure and local climatic feedbacks.” Levis, Samuel, Jonathan A. Foley, David Pollard, 2000, J. Climate, 13, 1313–1325, doi: 10.1175/1520-0442(2000)0132.0.CO;2. [Full text]

Simulated responses of potential vegetation to doubled-CO2 climate change and feedbacks on near-surface temperature – Betts et al. (2000) “Increases in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and associated changes in climate may exert large impacts on plant physiology and the density of vegetation cover. These may in turn provide feedbacks on climate through a modification of surface-atmosphere fluxes of energy and moisture. This paper uses asynchronously coupled models of global vegetation and climate to examine the responses of potential vegetation to different aspects of a doubled-CO2 environmental change, and compares the feedbacks on near-surface temperature arising from physiological and structural components of the vegetation response. Stomatal conductance reduces in response to the higher CO2 concentration, but rising temperatures and a redistribution of precipitation also exert significant impacts on this property as well as leading to major changes in potential vegetation structure. Overall, physiological responses act to enhance the warming near the surface, but in many areas this is offset by increases in leaf area resulting from greater precipitation and higher temperatures. Interactions with seasonal snow cover result in a positive feedback on winter warming in the boreal forest regions.” Richard A. Betts, Peter M. Cox, F. Ian Woodward, Global Ecology and Biogeography, Volume 9, Issue 2, pages 171–180, March 2000, DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.2000.00160.x.

Incorporating dynamic vegetation cover within global climate models – Foley et al. (2000) “Numerical models of Earth’s climate system must consider the atmosphere and terrestrial biosphere as a coupled system, with biogeophysical and biogeochemical processes occurring across a range of timescales. On short timescales (i.e., seconds to hours), the coupled system is dominated by the rapid biophysical and biogeochemical processes that exchange energy, water, carbon dioxide, and momentum between the atmosphere and the land surface. Intermediate-timescale (i.e., days to months) processes include changes in the store of soil moisture, changes in carbon allocation, and vegetation phenology (e.g., budburst, leaf-out, senescence, dormancy). On longer timescales (i.e., seasons, years, and decades), there can be fundamental changes in the vegetation structure itself (disturbance, land use, stand growth). In order to consider the full range of coupled atmosphere–biosphere processes, we must extend climate models to include intermediate and long-term ecological phenomena. This paper reviews early attempts at linking climate and equilibrium vegetation models through iterative coupling techniques, and some important insights gained through this procedure. We then summarize recent developments in coupling global vegetation and climate models, and some of the applications of these tools to modeling climate change. Furthermore, we discuss more recent developments in vegetation models (including a new class of models called “dynamic global vegetation models”), and how these models are incorporated with atmospheric general circulation models. Fully coupled climate–vegetation models are still in the very early stages of development. Nevertheless, these prototype models have already indicated the importance of considering vegetation cover as an interactive part of the climate system.” Foley, Jonathan A., Samuel Levis, Marcos Heil Costa, Wolfgang Cramer, and David Pollard. 2000, Ecological Applications 10:1620–1632. [doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[1620:IDVCWG]2.0.CO;2]. [Full text]

Interactions between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems: influence on weather and climate – Pielke et al. (1998) “This paper overviews the short-term (biophysical) and long-term (out to around 100 year timescales; biogeochemical and biogeographical) influences of the land surface on weather and climate. From our review of the literature, the evidence is convincing that terrestrial ecosystem dynamics on these timescales significantly influence atmospheric processes. In studies of past and possible future climate change, terrestrial ecosystem dynamics are as important as changes in atmospheric dynamics and composition, ocean circulation, ice sheet extent, and orbit perturbations.” Roger A. Pielke, Sr, RonI. Avissar, Michael Raupach, A. Johannes Dolman, Xubin Zeng, A. Scott Denning, Global Change Biology, Volume 4, Issue 5, pages 461–475, June 1998, DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2486.1998.t01-1-00176.x. [Full text]

Vegetation-climate feedbacks in a greenhouse world – Woodward et al. (1998) “The potential for feedbacks between terrestrial vegetation, climate, and the atmospheric CO2 partial pressure have been addressed by modelling. Previous research has established that under global warming and CO2 enrichment, the stomatal conductance of vegetation tends to decrease, causing a warming effect on top of the driving change in greenhouse warming. At the global scale, this positive feedback is ultimately changed to a negative feedback through changes in vegetation structure. In spatial terms this structural feedback has a variable geographical pattern in terms of magnitude and sign. At high latitudes, increases in vegetation leaf area index (LAI) and vegetation height cause a positive feedback, and warming through reductions in the winter snow–cover albedo. At lower latitudes when vegetation becomes more sparse with warming, the higher albedo of the underlying soil leads to cooling. However, the largest area effects are of negative feedbacks caused by increased evaporative cooling with increasing LAI. These effects do not include feedbacks on the atmospheric CO2 concentration, through changes in the carbon cycle of the vegetation. Modelling experiments, with biogeochemical, physiological and structural feedbacks on atmospheric CO2, but with no changes in precipitation, ocean activity or sea ice formation, have shown that a consequence of the CO2 fertilization effect on vegetation will be a reduction of atmospheric CO2 concentration, in the order of 12% by the year 2100 and a reduced global warming by 0.7°C, in a total greenhouse warming of 3.9°C.” F. I. Woodward, M. R. Lomas and R. A. Betts, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 29 January 1998 vol. 353 no. 1365 29-39, doi: 10.1098/rstb.1998.0188. [Full text]

Coupling dynamic models of climate and vegetation – Foley et al. (1998) “Numerous studies have underscored the importance of terrestrial ecosystems as an integral component of the Earth’s climate system. This realization has already led to efforts to link simple equilibrium vegetation models with Atmospheric General Circulation Models through iterative coupling procedures. While these linked models have pointed to several possible climate–vegetation feedback mechanisms, they have been limited by two shortcomings: (i) they only consider the equilibrium response of vegetation to shifting climatic conditions and therefore cannot be used to explore transient interactions between climate and vegetation; and (ii) the representations of vegetation processes and land-atmosphere exchange processes are still treated by two separate models and, as a result, may contain physical or ecological inconsistencies. Here we present, as a proof concept, a more tightly integrated framework for simulating global climate and vegetation interactions. The prototype coupled model consists of the GENESIS (version 2) Atmospheric General Circulation Model and the IBIS (version 1) Dynamic Global Vegetation Model. The two models are directly coupled through a common treatment of land surface and ecophysiological processes, which is used to calculate the energy, water, carbon, and momentum fluxes between vegetation, soils, and the atmosphere. On one side of the interface, GENESIS simulates the physics and general circulation of the atmosphere. On the other side, IBIS predicts transient changes in the vegetation structure through changes in the carbon balance and competition among plants within terrestrial ecosystems. As an initial test of this modelling framework, we perform a 30 year simulation in which the coupled model is supplied with modern CO2 concentrations, observed ocean temperatures, and modern insolation. In this exploratory study, we run the GENESIS atmospheric model at relatively coarse horizontal resolution (4.5° latitude by 7.5° longitude) and IBIS at moderate resolution (2° latitude by 2° longitude). We initialize the models with globally uniform climatic conditions and the modern distribution of potential vegetation cover. While the simulation does not fully reach equilibrium by the end of the run, several general features of the coupled model behaviour emerge. We compare the results of the coupled model against the observed patterns of modern climate. The model correctly simulates the basic zonal distribution of temperature and precipitation, but several important regional biases remain. In particular, there is a significant warm bias in the high northern latitudes, and cooler than observed conditions over the Himalayas, central South America, and north-central Africa. In terms of precipitation, the model simulates drier than observed conditions in much of South America, equatorial Africa and Indonesia, with wetter than observed conditions in northern Africa and China. Comparing the model results against observed patterns of vegetation cover shows that the general placement of forests and grasslands is roughly captured by the model. In addition, the model simulates a roughly correct separation of evergreen and deciduous forests in the tropical, temperate and boreal zones. However, the general patterns of global vegetation cover are only approximately correct: there are still significant regional biases in the simulation. In particular, forest cover is not simulated correctly in large portions of central Canada and southern South America, and grasslands extend too far into northern Africa. These preliminary results demonstrate the feasibility of coupling climate models with fully dynamic representations of the terrestrial biosphere. Continued development of fully coupled climate-vegetation models will facilitate the exploration of a broad range of global change issues, including the potential role of vegetation feedbacks within the climate system, and the impact of climate variability and transient climate change on the terrestrial biosphere.” Jonathan A. Foley, Samuel Levis, I. Colin Prentice, David Pollard, Starley L. Thompson, Global Change Biology, Volume 4, Issue 5, pages 561–579, June 1998, DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2486.1998.t01-1-00168.x. [Full text]

The Influence of Vegetation-Atmosphere-Ocean Interaction on Climate During the Mid-Holocene – Ganopolski et al. (1998) “Simulations with a synchronously coupled atmosphere–ocean–vegetation model show that changes in vegetation cover during the mid-Holocene, some 6000 years ago, modify and amplify the climate system response to an enhanced seasonal cycle of solar insolation in the Northern Hemisphere both directly (primarily through the changes in surface albedo) and indirectly (through changes in oceanic temperature, sea-ice cover, and oceanic circulation). The model results indicate strong synergistic effects of changes in vegetation cover, ocean temperature, and sea ice at boreal latitudes, but in the subtropics, the atmosphere–vegetation feedback is most important. Moreover, a reduction of the thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic Ocean leads to a warming of the Southern Hemisphere.” Andrey Ganopolski, Claudia Kubatzki, Martin Claussen, Victor Brovkin and Vladimir Petoukhov, Science 19 June 1998: Vol. 280 no. 5371 pp. 1916-1919, DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5371.1916. [Full text]

Potential role of vegetation feedback in the climate sensitivity of high-latitude regions: A case study at 6000 years B.P. – TEMPO (1996) “Previous climate model simulations have shown that the configuration of the Earth’s orbit during the early to mid-Holocene (approximately 10–5 kyr) can account for the generally warmer-than-present conditions experienced by the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. New simulations for 6 kyr with two atmospheric/mixed-layer ocean models (Community Climate Model, version 1, CCMl, and Global ENvironmental and Ecological Simulation of Interactive Systems, version 2, GENESIS 2) are presented here and compared with results from two previous simulations with GENESIS 1 that were obtained with and without the albedo feedback due to climate-induced poleward expansion of the boreal forest. The climate model results are summarized in the form of potential vegetation maps obtained with the global BIOME model, which facilitates visual comparisons both among models and with pollen and plant macrofossil data recording shifts of the forest-tundra boundary. A preliminary synthesis shows that the forest limit was shifted 100–200 km north in most sectors. Both CCMl and GENESIS 2 produced a shift of this magnitude. GENESIS 1 however produced too small a shift, except when the boreal forest albedo feedback was included. The feedback in this case was estimated to have amplified forest expansion by approximately 50%. The forest limit changes also show meridional patterns (greatest expansion in central Siberia and little or none in Alaska and Labrador) which have yet to be reproduced by models. Further progress in understanding of the processes involved in the response of climate and vegetation to orbital forcing will require both the deployment of coupled atmosphere-biosphere-ocean models and the development of more comprehensive observational data sets.” TEMPO (1996), Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 10(4), 727–736, doi:10.1029/96GB02690.

Role of orbitally induced changes in tundra area in the onset of glaciation – Gallimore & Kutzbach (1996) “THE link between glacial–interglacial cycles and changes in insolation due to variations in the Earth’s orbital parameters is well established. But of the attempts to simulate incipient glaciation using three-dimensional general circulation models (GCMs) driven by orbital forcing alone, only one has been successful. GCM experiments show that reduced summer insolation 115,000 years ago (during an interglacial-to-glacial climate shift) produces sufficient high-latitude cooling to cause expansion of tundra at the expense of boreal forest, which in turn can induce more cooling. Here we show, using a global climate model, that the increase in surface albedo (under snow-covered conditions) that results from a biome model estimate of tundra expansion 115,000 years ago is sufficient to induce glaciation over extreme-northeastern Canada. If the additional cooling from this estimated tundra expansion induces further expansion, then widespread glaciation occurs at latitudes above 65° N. These results suggest that the climate feedback from high-latitude tundra expansion might have contributed to the onset of the most recent glaciation.” R. G. Gallimore & J. E. Kutzbach, Nature 381, 503 – 505 (06 June 1996); doi:10.1038/381503a0. [Full text]

An integrated biosphere model of land surface processes, terrestrial carbon balance, and vegetation dynamics – Foley et al. (1996) “Here we present a new terrestrial biosphere model (the Integrated Biosphere Simulator – IBIS) which demonstrates how land surface biophysics, terrestrial carbon fluxes, and global vegetation dynamics can be represented in a single, physically consistent modeling framework. In order to integrate a wide range of biophysical, physiological, and ecological processes, the model is designed around a hierarchical, modular structure and uses a common state description throughout. First, a coupled simulation of the surface water, energy, and carbon fluxes is performed on hourly timesteps and is integrated over the year to estimate the annual water and carbon balance. Next, the annual carbon balance is used to predict changes in the leaf area index and biomass for each of nine plant functional types, which compete for light and water using different ecological strategies. The resulting patterns of annual evapotranspiration, runoff, and net primary productivity are in good agreement with observations. In addition, the model simulates patterns of vegetation dynamics that qualitatively agree with features of the natural process of secondary succession. Comparison of the model’s inferred near-equilibrium vegetation categories with a potential natural vegetation map shows a fair degree of agreement. This integrated modeling framework provides a means of simulating both rapid biophysical processes and long-term ecosystem dynamics that can be directly incorporated within atmospheric models.” Foley, J. A., I. C. Prentice, N. Ramankutty, S. Levis, D. Pollard, S. Sitch, and A. Haxeltine (1996), Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 10(4), 603–628, doi:10.1029/96GB02692. [Full text]

Effects of boreal forest vegetation on global climate – Bonan et al. (1992) “TERRESTRIAL ecosystems are thought to play an important role in determining regional and global climate1–6; one example of this is in Amazonia, where destruction of the tropical rainforest leads to warmer and drier conditions4–6. Boreal forest ecosystems may also affect climate. As temperatures rise, the amount of continental and oceanic snow and ice is reduced, so the land and ocean surfaces absorb greater amounts of solar radiation, reinforcing the warming in a ‘snow/ice/albedo’ feedback which results in large climate sensitivity to radiative forcings7–9. This sensitivity is moderated, however, by the presence of trees in northern latitudes, which mask the high reflectance of snow10,11, leading to warmer winter temperatures than if trees were not present12–14. Here we present results from a global climate model which show that the boreal forest warms both winter and summer air temperatures, relative to simulations in which the forest is replaced with bare ground or tundra vegetation. Our results suggest that future redistributions of boreal forest and tundra vegetation (due, for example, to extensive logging, or the influence of global warming) could initiate important climate feedbacks, which could also extend to lower latitudes.” Gordon B. Bonan, David Pollard & Starley L. Thompson, Nature 359, 716 – 718 (22 October 1992); doi:10.1038/359716a0.

Influence of Land-Surface Evapotranspiration on the Earth’s Climate – Shukla & Mintz (1982) “Calculations with a numerical model of the atmosphere show that the global fields of rainfall, temperature, and motion strongly depend on the land- surface evapotranspiration. This confirms the long-held idea that the surface vegetation, which produces the evapotransporation, is an important factor in the earth’s climate.” J. Shukla and Y. Mintz, Science 19 March 1982: Vol. 215 no. 4539 pp. 1498-1501, DOI: 10.1126/science.215.4539.1498.


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