Ecosystem feedbacks constrain the effect of day-to-day weather variability on land–atmosphere carbon exchange

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TitleEcosystem feedbacks constrain the effect of day-to-day weather variability on land–atmosphere carbon exchange
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsRastetter, EB, Griffin, KL, Kwiatkowski, BL, Kling, GW
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Keywordscarbon balance, climate change, C–N–P interactions, ecosystem biogeochemistry, ecosystem feedbacks, Jensen's inequality, LTER-ARC, update-2023-02, weather variability

Whole-ecosystem interactions and feedbacks constrain ecosystem responses to environmental change. The effects of these constraints on responses to climate trends and extreme weather events have been well studied. Here we examine how these constraints respond to changes in day-to-day weather variability without changing the long-term mean weather. Although environmental variability is recognized as a critical factor affecting ecological function, the effects of climate change on day-to-day weather variability and the resultant impacts on ecosystem function are still poorly understood. Changes in weather variability can alter the mean rates of individual ecological processes because many processes respond non-linearly to environmental drivers. We assessed how these individual-process responses to changes in day-to-day weather variability interact with one another at an ecosystem level. We examine responses of arctic tundra to changes in weather variability using stochastic simulations of daily temperature, precipitation, and light to drive a biogeochemical model. Changes in weather variability altered ecosystem carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus stocks and cycling rates in our model. However, responses of some processes (e.g., respiration) were inconsistent with expectations because ecosystem feedbacks can moderate, or even reverse, direct process responses to weather variability. More weather variability led to greater carbon losses from land to atmosphere; less variability led to higher carbon sequestration on land. The magnitude of modeled ecosystem response to weather variability was comparable to that predicted for the effects of climate mean trends by the end of the century.