Incorporating temperature-sensitive Q10 and foliar respiration acclimation algorithms modifies modeled ecosystem responses to global change

Kirk R. Wythers, Peter B. Reich, John B. Bradford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Evidence suggests that respiration acclimation (RA) to temperature in plants can have a substantial influence on ecosystem carbon balance. To assess the influence of RA on ecosystem response variables in the presence of global change drivers, we incorporated a temperature-sensitive Q10 of respiration and foliar basal RA into the ecosystem model PnET-CN. We examined the new algorithms' effects on modeled net primary production (NPP), total canopy foliage mass, foliar nitrogen concentration, net ecosystem exchange (NEE), and ecosystem respiration/gross primary production ratios. This latter ratio more closely matched eddy covariance long-term data when RA was incorporated in the model than when not. Averaged across four boreal ecotone sites and three forest types at year 2100, the enhancement of NPP in response to the combination of rising [CO2] and warming was 9% greater when RA algorithms were used, relative to responses using fixed respiration parameters. The enhancement of NPP response to global change was associated with concomitant changes in foliar nitrogen and foliage mass. In addition, impacts of RA algorithms on modeled responses of NEE closely paralleled impacts on NPP. These results underscore the importance of incorporating temperature-sensitive Q 10 and basal RA algorithms into ecosystem models. Given the current evidence that atmospheric [CO2] and surface temperature will continue to rise, and that ecosystem responses to those changes appear to be modified by RA, which is a common phenotypic adjustment, the potential for misleading results increases if models fail to incorporate RA into their carbon balance calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-90
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


  • climate change
  • ecosystem model
  • foliar respiration acclimation
  • forest productivity


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