Multiple mechanisms of Amazonian forest biomass losses in three dynamic global vegetation models under climate change

Authors Galbraith, D.; Levy, P.E.; Sitch, S.; Huntingford, C.; Cox, P.; Williams, M.; Meir, P.
Year of Publication 2010
Type of Publication Journal Article
Journal New Phytologist
Volume 187
Issue 3
Pagination 647-665
Open Access Yes


The large-scale loss of Amazonian rainforest under some future climate scenarios has generally been considered to be driven by increased drying over Amazonia predicted by some general circulation models (GCMs). However, the importance of rainfall relative to other drivers has never been formally examined. Here, we conducted factorial simulations to ascertain the contributions of four environmental drivers (precipitation, temperature, humidity and CO2) to simulated changes in Amazonian vegetation carbon (Cveg), in three dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) forced with climate data based on HadCM3 for four SRES scenarios. Increased temperature was found to be more important than precipitation reduction in causing losses of Amazonian Cveg in two DGVMs (Hyland and TRIFFID), and as important as precipitation reduction in a third DGVM (LPJ). Increases in plant respiration, direct declines in photosynthesis and increases in vapour pressure deficit (VPD) all contributed to reduce Cveg under high temperature, but the contribution of each mechanism varied greatly across models. Rising CO2 mitigated much of the climate-driven biomass losses in the models. Additional work is required to constrain model behaviour with experimental data under conditions of high temperature and drought. Current models may be overly sensitive to long-term elevated temperatures as they do not account for physiological acclimation.