Predicting the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on catchment carbon and water fluxes

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Randall J Donohue, CSIRO Land and Water Canberra, Canberra, Australia, Michael L Roderick, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, Tim McVicar, CSIRO, Black Mountain, Australia and Graham D Farquhar, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Anthropogenic activities are increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Among the many observed and expected impacts of this on our climate and biosphere, one is the so-called CO2 fertilisation effect. In this effect the efficiency with which vegetation can acquire carbon relative to its water use increases proportionally with CO2 concentration, and this biological response has implications for both carbon and water balances. Despite considerable research into the impacts of CO2 fertilisation, there is still uncertainty on the catchment scale response of vegetation to elevated CO2.

Here we present a simple, conceptually based, generic model for quantifying how CO2 fertilisation affects the structure, water use and productivity of vegetation. Using this new Carbon Use Efficiency (CUE) model we can account for Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experimental results from a diverse range of sites. We use the CUE model to estimate the effect of the ~18% rise in CO2 over the past three decades on the globe’s vegetation cover, and transpiration and carbon assimilation rates.