Rising CO2 drives global photosynthesis (greening)

Vanessa Haverd, Benjamin Smith, Josep G. Canadell, et al. Higher than expected CO2 fertilization inferred from leaf to global observations Global Change Bioilogy https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14950

Several lines of evidence point to an increase in the activity of the terrestrial biosphere over recent decades, impacting the global net land carbon sink (NLS) and its control on the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide (ca). Global terrestrial gross primary production (GPP)—the rate of carbon fixation by photosynthesis—is estimated to have risen by (31 ± 5)% since 1900, but the relative contributions of different putative drivers to this increase are not well known. Here we identify the rising atmospheric CO2 concentration as the dominant driver. We reconcile leaf‐level and global atmospheric constraints on trends in modeled biospheric activity to reveal a global CO2 fertilization effect on photosynthesis of 30% since 1900, or 47% for a doubling of ca above the pre‐industrial level. Our historic value is nearly twice as high as current estimates (17 ± 4)% that do not use the full range of available constraints. Consequently, under a future low‐emission scenario, we project a land carbon sink (174 PgC, 2006–2099) that is 57 PgC larger than if a lower CO2 fertilization effect comparable with current estimates is assumed. These findings suggest a larger beneficial role of the land carbon sink in modulating future excess anthropogenic CO2 consistent with the target of the Paris Agreement to stay below 2°C warming, and underscore the importance of preserving terrestrial carbon sinks.


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