Increasing impact of warm droughts on northern ecosystem productivity over recent decades

David Gampe, Jakob Zscheischler, Markus Reichstein, Michael O’Sullivan, William K. Smith, Stephen Sitch, Wolfgang Buermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Climate extremes such as droughts and heatwaves have a large impact on terrestrial carbon uptake by reducing gross primary production (GPP). While the evidence for increasing frequency and intensity of climate extremes over the last decades is growing, potential systematic adverse shifts in GPP have not been assessed. Using observationally-constrained and process-based model data, we estimate that particularly northern midlatitude ecosystems experienced a +10.6% increase in negative GPP extremes in the period 2000–2016 compared to 1982–1998. We attribute this increase predominantly to a greater impact of warm droughts, in particular over northern temperate grasslands (+95.0% corresponding mean increase) and croplands (+84.0%), in and after the peak growing season. These results highlight the growing vulnerability of ecosystem productivity to warm droughts, implying increased adverse impacts of these climate extremes on terrestrial carbon sinks as well as a rising pressure on global food security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-779
Number of pages8
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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