Vegetation function responses to global change: across observations, experiments, and models

The need to predict ecosystem responses to anthropogenic change, including but not limited to changes in climate and increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, is more pressing than ever. Global change is inherently multi-factorial and as the terrestrial biosphere moves into states without a present climate analogue, mechanistic understanding of ecosystem processes and their linkages with vegetation diversity and ecosystem function is vital to enable predictive capacity in our forecast tools.

This session aims to bring together scientists interested in advancing our fundamental understanding of vegetation and whole-ecosystem processes. We are interested in contributions focused on advancing process- and hypothesis-driven understanding of plant ecophysiology, biodiversity and ecosystem function. We welcome studies on a range of scales from greenhouse and mesocosm experiments to large field manipulative experiments, remote sensing studies and process-based modelling. We encourage contributions of novel ideas and hypotheses in particular those from early stage researchers and hope the session can create an environment where such ideas can be discussed freely.

Convener: Silvia Caldararu | Co-conveners: Martin De Kauwe, Richard NairECSECS, Victor Rolo
vPICO presentations
| Fri, 30 Apr, 13:30–15:00 (CEST)

vPICO presentations: Fri, 30 Apr

Chairpersons: Silvia Caldararu, Martin De Kauwe, Richard Nair
Kimberly Novick

In addition to dramatic reductions to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, most pathways for limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees C rely on managed alterations to the land surface designed to increase land carbon uptake and storage (so-called “natural climate solutions”, or NCS). Reforestation is the NCS with the largest estimated climate mitigation potential, and at least in energy-limited temperate climates, evidence is mounting that transitions from short-stature ecosystems (croplands, grasslands) to forests substantially reduce surface temperature. In this way, reforestation, at least in some places, may also represent a useful tool for local climate adaptation. However, existing work on the topic has tended to focus on how reforestation affects mean annual and seasonal surface temperature, with comparatively less attention paid to the biophysical impacts of reforestation when local cooling would be most beneficial (i.e. at mid-day, and especially droughts and heat waves). Moreover, while surface temperature is a critical driver of ecosystem processes, arguably the near-surface air temperature is the more relevant target for climate adaptation. The duality between reforestation impacts on surface and air temperature has historically been challenging to deconvolve, and thus we do not yet understand the extent to which forest surface cooling extends to the air. In this talk, new strategies are discussed for blending flux tower data and remote sensing observations to uncover the links between reforestation, surface energy balance, and near-surface air temperature dynamics, with a particular emphasis on how plant water use strategies mediate these relationships during summer days and periods of hydrologic stress.  

How to cite: Novick, K.: Temperate-zone reforestation as a tool for local climate adaptation? , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6662,, 2021.

Johannes Ingrisch, Nikolaus Umlauf, and Michael Bahn

With ongoing climate change, the predicted increase in climate variability is likely to increase the intensity of extreme drought events. This could significantly amplify the consequences of drought, because ecological responses are often non-linear. The importance of functional thresholds has been widely recognized, where comparably small changes in the stressor can have disproportional large consequences for ecosystem functioning. However, very few studies have actually tested for the functional thresholds of drought responses, which creates large uncertainties in our understanding of drought effects. Here, we aimed to determine the effects of drought intensity on plant productivity and to identify potential thresholds underpinning these responses.

We studied the effects of drought intensity on different measures of plant productivity using a gradient design. In a common garden experiment, we performed an experimental pulse drought of 3.5 weeks on planted monospecific mesocosms composed of the common grass Dactylis glomerata and the common forb Plantago lanceolata, respectively. We imposed a drought intensity gradient, which ranged from well-watered to extremely dry soil conditions. During drought and post-drought recovery we repeatedly measured productivity-related parameters, including gross primary productivity (GPP), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and vegetative height, and assessed aboveground net primary production (ANPP) at peak drought and after recovery.

Drought intensity had non-linear effects on all studied parameters both during the resistance and the recovery phase. At peak drought we observed threshold responses at two stages of drought intensity. The first threshold occurred at moderate drought intensity and was related to a distinct downregulation of GPP and plant height. The second threshold was reflected in a steep decline of NDVI and leaf water content. During the recovery phase, high drought intensity stimulated productivity and regrowth rates. This resulted in an overshooting of biomass production by up to 100% in mesocosms previously exposed to severe drought, the effect being related to the first drought intensity threshold, which had led to a downregulation of GPP during drought. The overcompensation following exposure to high drought intensities was more pronounced for Plantago than for Dactylis. However, highest drought intensities clearly suppressed the recovery capacity of Plantago but not of Dactylis, which demonstrates species-specific differences in the effects of drought intensity on plant resilience.

We conclude that functional thresholds in drought and recovery responses of productivity are related and that with increasing drought intensity plants compensate decreased resistance with increased recovery to optimize overall resilience of productivity to drought.

How to cite: Ingrisch, J., Umlauf, N., and Bahn, M.: Functional thresholds of plant resistance and recovery to drought, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8333,, 2021.

Daijun Liu, Chao Zhang, Thomas Pugh, and Josep Penuelas

Increasing anthropogenic and natural disturbances have disturbed 75% of global land area, indicating many plant communities are unstable or in recovery process. Increasing water deficits by rainfall reduction may decrease resilience (rate of recovery) and trigger different succession pathways (e.g. delayed, altered mature status and advanced degradation). Knowledge on the effects of future drought on community structure and demographic dynamics is key to project the fate of vegetation and yet it is limited. 

Here we assessed the impacts of long-term (20 years) experimental drought (-30% rainfall) on the successional pathways of species diversity, community composition and demographic changes for an early-successional Mediterranean shrubland (4 years after a wildfire). The results indicated that experimental drought significantly decreased species richness and shifted community composition compared to control plots. Significant decreases in abundance and increases in death ratios at both community (all species) and shrub (shrub species) levels were found in experimental drought. However, the abundance of Globularia Alypum was significantly increased by drought while Erica multiflora was not affected; the death ratios for the two species were significantly lower in drought than control plots. Species richness, community composition and abundance followed pathway 2 (altered mature state) while shrubland abundance followed pathway 3 (advanced degradation). Principal Component Analysis (PCA) indicated that the variance in vegetation metrics was notably explained by the first two dimensions (49.4%), mainly related to the death ratio of G. alypum and E. multiflora (27.3% for PC1) and abundance of community and shrub levels (22.1% for PC2). The space variation in PC1 significantly increased over time, which was orthogonal with PC2. Within two dimensions of PC1 and PC2, the scores in control were significantly higher than drought. 

Our findings suggest that drier condition simulated by long-term drought could delay and alter the succession pathways of species diversity, community composition and abundance of the plant communities in Mediterranean ecosystems. The results also imply the importance to analyse long-term drought and extreme events on ecosystem functions (the strength of carbon storage in vegetation and soil) for such recovering communities.

How to cite: Liu, D., Zhang, C., Pugh, T., and Penuelas, J.: Delayed and altered post-fire recovery pathways of Mediterranean shrubland under 20-year drought manipulation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5063,, 2021.

Angelika Kübert, Kathrin Kühnhammer, Ines Bamberger, Erik Daber, Jason De Leeuw, Kinzie Bailey, Jia Hu, S. Nemiah Ladd, Laura Meredith, Joost van Haren, Matthias Beyer, Maren Dubbert, and Christiane Werner

Increasing drought in the tropics is a major threat to rainforests and can strongly harm plant communities. Understanding species-specific water use strategies to drought and the subsequent recovery is therefore important for estimating the risk to tropical rainforest ecosystems of drought. Conducting a large-scale long-term drought experiment in a model rainforest ecosystem (Biosphere 2 WALD project), we evaluated the role of plant physiological responses, above and below ground, in response to drought and subsequent recovery in five species (3 canopy species, 2 understory species). The model rainforest was exposed to a 9.5-week lasting drought. Severe drought was ended with a deep water pulse strongly enriched in 2H, which allowed us to distinguish between deep and shallow rooting plants, and subsequent rain (natural abundance range of 2H). We assessed plant physiological responses by leaf water potential, sap flow and high resolution monitoring of leaf gas exchange (concentrations and stable isotopes of H2O and CO2). Thereby, we could derive plant water uptake and leaf water use efficiency (WUEleaf) in high temporal resolution, revealing short-term and long-term responses of plant individuals to drought and rewetting. The observed water use strategies of species and plants differed widely. No uniform response in assimilation (A) and transpiration (T) to drought was found for species, resulting in decreasing, relatively constant, or increasing WUEleaf across plant individuals. While WUEleaf of some plant individuals strongly decreased due to a breakdown in A, others maintained relatively high T and A and thus constant WUEleaf, or increased WUEleaf by decreasing T while keeping A relatively high. We expect that the observed plant-specific responses in A, T and WUEleaf were strongly related to the plant individuals' access to soil water. We assume that plant individuals with constant WUEleaf could maintain their leaf gas exchange due to access to water of deeper soil layers, while plants with increasing/decreasing WUEleaf mainly depended on shallow soil water and only had limited or no access to deep soil water. We conclude that the observed physiological responses to drought were not only determined by species-specific water use strategies but also by the diverse strategies within species, mainly depending on the plant individuals' size and place of location. Our results highlight the plasticity of water use strategies beyond species-specific strategies and emphasize its importance for species’ survival in face of climate change and increasing drought.

How to cite: Kübert, A., Kühnhammer, K., Bamberger, I., Daber, E., De Leeuw, J., Bailey, K., Hu, J., Ladd, S. N., Meredith, L., van Haren, J., Beyer, M., Dubbert, M., and Werner, C.: Tropical rainforests under severe drought stress: distinct water use strategies among and within species, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15395,, 2021.

Manon Sabot, Martin De Kauwe, Andy Pitman, Belinda Medlyn, Silvia Caldararu, Sönke Zaehle, and David Ellsworth

Droughts have been implicated as the driver behind recent vegetation die-off across a variety of hydroclimates and are projected to drive greater mortality under future climate change. Predicting ecosystem resilience to future drought requires a predictive capacity, which is currently lacking in state-of-the-art land surface models (LSMs) that rely on simplified empirical relationships to represent the impacts of water stress on vegetation. Novel approaches that optimise stomatal conductance with respect to plant photosynthetic and hydraulic functions have been shown to reduce the biases of LSM gas exchange predictions during drought. These approaches also offer a pathway to further develop mechanistic optimality theory, e.g. pertaining to leaf drought deciduousness. But on what timescale(s) does vegetation function adjust to maximise resource investment? We explore the following timescales of optimality within a simple LSM: (i) instantaneous (regulating canopy gas exchange); (ii) monthly (regulating the investment of nitrogen in photosynthetic capacity); and (iii) seasonal to annual (water stress legacies on plant hydraulics). We use observations from a temperate woodland in South-Eastern Australia to test which optimisation timescales and processes are best supported and whether competing timescales can operate together, both under well-watered conditions and during a severe multi-year drought, and from the leaf-scale to the ecosystem-scale. The insights gained help us characterize how adjoined allocation processes, like leaf biomass adjustment, relate to leaf carbon uptake and plant water status through time (e.g. leaves can be shed to mitigate drought stress or built from structural storage pools when water is not limiting), therefore conferring additional resilience.

How to cite: Sabot, M., De Kauwe, M., Pitman, A., Medlyn, B., Caldararu, S., Zaehle, S., and Ellsworth, D.: On which timescale(s) do optimal adjustments to vegetation function confer resilience? A case study in South-Eastern Australia, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14908,, 2021.

Phillip Papastefanou, Christian Zang, Thomas Pugh, Daijun Liu, David Lapola, Katrin Fleischer, Thorsten Grams, Thomas Hickler, and Anja Rammig

The Amazon rainforest has been hit by extreme drought events in recent decades. Thereby, plant hydraulics are essential to better understand the impacts of droughts on single plants and whole forest ecosystems. Plant hydraulic mechanisms such as stomatal closure and leaf water potential are very complex, still posing challenges for current vegetation model development and parameterization. Here, we present the new hydraulic architecture of the Dynamic Global Vegetation Model LPJ-GUESS, accounting for leaf stomatal responses to plant water status and subsequent drought-induced mortality. We show that when applying the model to the Amazon rainforest we can reproduce the observed increasing trend in carbon losses and the decreasing trend in net carbon sink from plot observations over the past two decades. Our model simulations suggest that the increasing historical trend in carbon losses from mortality can be explained by hydraulic failure and associated mortality.

The high biodiversity of the Amazon tropical rainforest poses further challenges for process-based models. Here we present an approach to include the diversity of plant responses to drought by simulating 37 individual Plant Functional Types (PFTs) differing in their leaf water potential regulation- and resistance to soil water stress, and provide a simple solution how to cover a wide range of species and species-specific parameters. Future modelling studies should also take species interaction and competition of different hydraulic strategies into account.

How to cite: Papastefanou, P., Zang, C., Pugh, T., Liu, D., Lapola, D., Fleischer, K., Grams, T., Hickler, T., and Rammig, A.: New plant hydraulic architecture reproduces impacts of droughts in the Amazon rainforest, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15784,, 2021.

Philipp Porada, Selina Baldauf, Jose Raggio, Fernando Maestre, and Britta Tietjen

Manipulative experiments typically show a decrease in dryland biocrust cover and altered species composition under climate change. Biocrust-forming lichens, such as the globally distributed Diploschistes diacapsis, are particularly affected and show a decrease in cover with simulated climate change. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood, and long-term interacting effects of different drivers are largely unknown due to the short-term nature of the experimental studies conducted so far. We addressed this gap and successfully parameterised a process-based model for D. diacapsis to quantify how changing atmospheric CO2 , temperature, rainfall amount and relative humidity affect its photosynthetic activity and cover. We also mimicked a long-term manipulative climate change experiment to understand the mechanisms underlying observed patterns in the field. The model reproduced observed experimental findings: warming reduced lichen cover, whereas less rainfall had no effect on lichen performance. This warming effect was caused by the associated decrease in relative humidity and non-rainfall water inputs, which are major water sources for biocrust-forming lichens. Warming alone, however, increased cover because higher temperatures promoted photosynthesis during early morning hours with high lichen activity. When combined, climate variables showed non-additive effects on lichen cover, and effects of increased CO2 levelled off with decreasing levels of relative humidity. Our results show that a decrease in relative humidity, rather than an increase in temperature, may be the key factor for the survival of the lichen D. diacapsis under climate change and that effects of increased CO2 levels might be offset by a reduction in non-rainfall water inputs in the future. Because of a global trend towards warmer and drier air and the widespread global distribution of D. diacapsis, this will affect lichen-dominated dryland biocrust communities and their role in regulating ecosystem functions worldwide.

How to cite: Porada, P., Baldauf, S., Raggio, J., Maestre, F., and Tietjen, B.: Strong effect of relative humidity on dryland lichens under climate change, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12245,, 2021.

Susan Quick, Giulio Curioni, Phillip J Blaen, Stefan Krause, and Angus Robert MacKenzie

Extreme anthropogenic global change, such as increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, can challenge long-lived organisms including trees. Carbon uptake by trees, during photosynthesis, is inevitably accompanied by leaf transpiration; elevated atmospheric CO2 is, therefore, expected to reduce daytime plant water usage. The Free-Air Carbon-dioxide Enhancement (FACE) experiment at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) UK manipulates atmospheric CO2 in a 150 year old mixed deciduous temperate forest. In the sub-project described here, we compare diurnal and seasonal plant-water dynamics from individual trees under treatment (elevated CO2) and control conditions. Response of Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), as the dominant tree species, is reported for the initial three years of elevated CO2, enabling us to characterise whether the woodland is starting to adapt. Xylem sap flux measurement reflects tree water usage and has been used as a proxy for transpiration at stand scale in forest experiments. This project explores a modified sap flux analysis approach, enabling individual trees to be compared and responses to be scaled up to treatment patch level. It considers: inputs-outputs (e.g. precipitation, transpiration), water flow (e.g. xylem sap flux), temperature and radiation to see how tree-soil-water interfaces behave and change with increased CO2. Measurement methods include spot observations (phenology, porometry), and data-logged measures (e.g. of soil moisture and xylem flow). Initially sap flux and stomatal conductance are considered in comparison with previous reported studies of tree water use efficiency and estimations of water storage. By considering these key measurements driven by a tree-centred view the results provide valuable data to improve vegetation, soil and landscape models and increase understanding of trees in mature future- forest environments.

How to cite: Quick, S., Curioni, G., Blaen, P. J., Krause, S., and MacKenzie, A. R.: Tree-soil-water relations in a mature temperate forest under elevated CO2, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4557,, 2021.

Gabriela Martins Sophia, João Paulo Darella Filho, Caio Fascina, Bianca Fazio Rius, Bárbara Rocha Cardeli, Leonor Patrícia Cerdeira Morellato, and David Montenegro Lapola

Several dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) have been developed to better understand the vegetation's response to climate changes. However, DGVMs generate variable responses on the role of vegetation in the biogeochemical cycles, partially explained by the generalization made regarding the functional diversity, since it is represented by a small set of plant functional types. Trait-based models, which seek to include the variability of functional traits, emerge as a promising alternative for a better representation of the different plant life strategies, and consequently of functional diversity. Including leaf phenology in these models is of paramount importance because it plays a role in controlling the seasonality of carbon, water, and energy fluxes, but the models do not represent or represent inefficiently the phenology. In tropical ecosystems, such as in the Amazon, phenology is mainly driven by soil water availability and evapotranspirative demand, so simulating the impacts of a predicted drier climate require the representation of the connection between phenology and the hydraulic strategies of plants. Therefore, this work aims to contribute to the development of the CAETÊ trait-based model through the implementation of a leaf phenology module linked to plant hydraulic system. This development is being applied to the Amazon basin and its main objective is to improve the representation of the seasonality of vegetation with consequent improvement in the carbon and water cycle, and therefore to assess the impacts of climate changes on it. For this, two functional traits are being used as variants: ψ50 (xylem water potential at which 50% loss of hydraulic conductivity occurs) and τleaves (leaf carbon residence time). Through an environmental filter mechanism and traits trade-offs, each grid cell restricts the performance and survivorship of trait values combinations. The model is being applied under a 30% reduction of precipitation and increasing [CO2] to 600 ppmv. As preliminary results we have the performance of the equations that represent phenology and hydraulics developed offline from the model code, which represented the Leaf Economics Spectrum related to the τleaves, besides the isohydric and anisohydric strategies related to the ψ50 (e.g. high P50 values [-1 MPa] interrupted the hydraulic conductance in ~ 0.5 soil water [W; gH20 / gsoil], while low P50 values [-7 MPa] maintained conductance up to W = ~ 0.3). As expected results, two scales will be analyzed: at the community level, it is expected that it will present a change in the functional composition (i.e. composition of phenological and hydraulic strategies) in order to favor strategies that better deal with the new environmental conditions; at the ecosystem level, it is expected that this change in functional composition will alter the primary productivity and evapotranspiration. Finally, it is expected that the approach used will act as an alternative to investigate the relationship between hydraulics and phenology in Amazon in a less discretized way compared to a PFT approach, since this work is being a pioneer in considering this relation along with a logic of variant functional traits. Final results will be obtained before the EGU congress takes place.

How to cite: Martins Sophia, G., Darella Filho, J. P., Fascina, C., Fazio Rius, B., Rocha Cardeli, B., Cerdeira Morellato, L. P., and Montenegro Lapola, D.: Modeling the relation between leaf phenology and plant hydraulics in the Amazon rainforest: a trait-based approach on the effects of reduced precipitation and high CO2, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3512,, 2021.

Bárbara Rocha Cardeli, Bianca Fazio Rius, Caio Fascina, João Paulo Darela-Filho, Gabriela Martins Sophia, Thiago Sanna Freire Silva, and David Montenegro Lapola

The increase of CO2 concentrations implies direct and indirect (by changing climate) impacts on the terrestrial ecosystem. Several Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) have been developed to better understand the response of vegetation to climate change. However, the representation of plant diversity through a small set of Plant Functional Types (PFTs) adopted by the majority of DGVMs undermines their ability to represent functional diversity and fundamental interactions between these different life strategies of plants, like competition, which has been shown to be paramount in determining ecosystem functioning. Studies have shown that increasing CO2 concentration may determine the outcome of vegetation competition and, as a consequence, the ability to adapt to the environment, functional diversity, and community assembly mechanisms. Thus, the inclusion of competitive dynamics in these models becomes strategic to improve predictions and understanding the effects of climate change on vegetation and how it affects change in carbon fluxes and stocks in the community. In that sense, this project aims to contribute to the development of a light competition module within CAETÊ model (CArbon and Ecosystem functional Trait Evaluation model) which involves the implementation of allometric relations between plant organs. As a trait-based model, CAETÊ seeks to represent plant functional diversity in a less discrete way through the usage of variant values for functional traits. For this purpose, two key functional traits that are closely related to competition for light are employed as variants: wood density (WD) and specific leaf area (SLA). The main objective is to understand how light competition related to plant functional traits alters the response of Amazon plant communities under changing environmental conditions. As preliminary results, the algorithms containing the allometric and competition equations were developed outside the main model code and represent plant dynamics trade-offs between the variant functional traits and plant physiology and survivorship: WD relates to strategies of mortality and height growth. For example, high values of WD [1g/cm-3] are related to low heights [~30m.] and, low heights incur higher mortality rates; SLA relates to light competitive effect, Leaf Economics Spectrum, and LAI (leaf area index) determination, one of the most important parameters that determine the absorption of light by different life strategies. These trade-offs allow the representation of different plant life competition strategies. We expected that the light restriction for some functional strategies may incur a decrease in functional dominance and photosynthesis rate, consequently changing net primary productivity and after all the functional structure of the community. For functional diversity, it is expected changes in functional richness and functional divergence (related to the strength that competition exerts in the community) in order to favor strategies that better deal with the new environmental conditions simulated by CAETÊ with increasing [CO2] to 600 ppmv, for example. Finally, it is expected that this approach may contribute to improving the representation of competition for light in DGVMs to more assertively obtain the effects of climate changes on vegetation and ecosystem dynamics. Final results will be obtained until the EGU Congress takes place.

How to cite: Rocha Cardeli, B., Fazio Rius, B., Fascina, C., Darela-Filho, J. P., Martins Sophia, G., Sanna Freire Silva, T., and Montenegro Lapola, D.: Modeling light competition in the Amazon forest: the effects of high CO2 in functional diversity and biogeochemical cycle., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3514,, 2021.

Raphael Hébert, Chenzhi Li, Thomas Laepple, and Ulrike Herzschuh

Global climatic changes which are expected in the 21st century are likely to create unparalleled disturbances on vegetation. In addition, human activities also increase the risk of fire disturbances and insect epidemies. We investigate the resilience of different biomes by examining their behaviour during the Holocene using a taxonomically harmonized and temporally standardized global fossil pollen datasets,synthesized from 2821 palynological records from the Neotoma Paleoecology Database and additional literature. Specifically, we study the composition variability on millennial time-scale and timescale-dependant scaling of variability from centennial to multi-millennial timescales. A principal component analysis was performed in order to characterize the principal modes of variability of the pollen assemblages. We find coherent regional signals of vegetation variability and scaling of variability from the pollen assemblages, indicating significant millennial scale variability which can be related to vegetation taxa and climates. Particularly, we observe more stability in North America and Northern Europe in areas dominated by boreal forest and deciduous forests. This may be linked to the greater stability of forest ecosystems and also a more stable climate over these areas which may be the result of stabilizing feedbacks. We find that diversity plays a key role in vegetation composition and that more diverse regions allow for greater variability. 



How to cite: Hébert, R., Li, C., Laepple, T., and Herzschuh, U.: Characterization of the resilience and variability of vegetation during the Holocene using a large database of pollen data, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15259,, 2021.

Martin Thurner, Christian Beer, Stefano Manzoni, Anatoly Prokushkin, Zhiqiang Wang, Kailiang Yu, and Thomas Hickler

The rate at which forests take up atmospheric CO2 is critical with regard to their potential to mitigate climate change as well as their value for wood production. The allocation of carbon fixed through photosynthesis into biomass is crucially dependent on tree carbon use efficiency (CUE), which is determined by gross primary production (GPP) and plant respiration (Ra) via the relation CUE=(GPP-Ra)/GPP. The effect of future climate on CUE is unclear due to the unknown response of plant respiration to more severe increases in temperature. This motivates assessing spatial patterns in CUE across climatic gradients with marked temperature variations.  

Within the ”Improving tree carbon use efficiency for climate-adapted more productive forests” (iCUE-Forest) project, we aim to develop novel data-driven estimates of plant respiration, net primary production (NPP=GPP-Ra) and tree CUE covering the northern hemisphere boreal and temperate forests. These will be based on recent satellite-driven maps of tree living biomass, databases of N concentration measurements in tree compartments (leaves, stem/branches, roots) and the relationships between respiration rates and tissue N concentrations and temperature. Such estimates will enable the detection of spatial relationships between CUE and environmental conditions and facilitate the parameterization of dynamic global vegetation models which allow predicting the change in CUE in response to future climate and forest management.

Here we will present an extensive database of N concentration measurements in tree stems/branches and roots that we have compiled in addition to data available mainly for leaves from databases like TRY. More than 5000 measurements have been collected from the literature covering all common boreal and temperate tree species. Currently, we are exploring how the variation in tissue N concentrations is influenced by climate and tree species. Subsequently, we apply the derived tree-level relationships between tissue N concentrations and underlying drivers in combination with tree species distribution maps and estimates of tree compartment biomass based on satellite remote sensing products. In this way, we will derive novel estimates of the spatial distribution of N content in northern boreal and temperate forests that will in turn be used to assess CUE variations.

How to cite: Thurner, M., Beer, C., Manzoni, S., Prokushkin, A., Wang, Z., Yu, K., and Hickler, T.: Improving tree carbon use efficiency for climate-adapted more productive forests (iCUE-Forest), EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10299,, 2021.

Erica Jaakkola, Anna Maria Jönsson, Per-Ola Olsson, Maj-Lena Linderson, and Thomas Holst

Tree killing by spruce bark beetles (Ips typographus) is one of the main disturbances to Norway spruce (Picea abies) forests in Europe and the risk of outbreaks is amplified by climate change with effects such as increased risk of storm felling, tree drought stress and an additional generation of spruce bark beetles per year[1]. The warm and dry summer of 2018 triggered large outbreaks in Sweden, the increased outbreaks are still ongoing and affected about 8 million m3 forest in 2020[2]. This is the so far highest record of trees killed by the spruce bark beetle in a single year in Sweden[2]. In 1990-2010, the spruce bark beetle killed on average 150 000 m3 forest per year in southern Sweden[3]. Bark beetles normally seek and attack Norway spruces with lowered defense, i.e. trees that are wind-felled or experience prolonged drought stress[4]. However, as the number of bark beetle outbreaks increase, the risk of attacks on healthy trees also increase[5]. This causes a higher threat to forest industry, and lowers the possibilities to mitigate climate change in terms of potential decreases in carbon uptake if the forests die[4,5]. Norway spruce trees normally defend themselves by drenching the beetles in resin[6]. The resin in turn contains different biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), which can vary if the spruce is attacked by bark beetles or not [4,6]. The most abundant group of terpenoids (isoprene, monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes), is most commonly emitted from conifers, such as Norway spruce[7,8]. The aim of this study was to enable a better understanding of the direct defense mechanisms of spruce trees by quantifying BVOC emissions and its composition from individual trees under attack

To analyze the bark beetles’ impact on Norway spruce trees a method was developed using tree trunk chambers and adsorbent tubes. This enables direct measurements of the production of BVOCs from individual trees. Three different sites in Sweden, with different environmental conditions were used for the study and samples were collected throughout the growing season of 2019. After sampling, the tubes were analyzed in a lab using automated thermal desorption coupled to a gas chromatograph and a mass spectrometer to identify BVOC species and their quantity.

The preliminary results show a strong increase in BVOC emissions from a healthy tree that became infested during the data collection. The finalized results expect to enable better understanding of how spruce trees are affected by insect stress from bark beetles, and if bark beetle infestation will potentially result in increased carbon emission in the form of BVOCs.


[1] Jönsson et al. (2012). Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 166: 188–200
[2] Skogsstyrelsen, (2020).
[3] Marini et al. (2017). Ecography, 40(12), 1426–1435.
[4] Raffa (1991). Photochemical induction by herbivores. pp. 245-276
[5] Seidl, et al. (2014). Nature Climate Change, 4(9), 806-810.
[6] Ghimire, et al. (2016). Atmospheric Environment, 126, 145-152.
[7] Niinemets, U. and Monson, R. (2013). ISBN 978-94-007-6606-8
[8] Kesselmeier, J. and Staudt, M. (1999). Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry, 33(1), pp.23-88

How to cite: Jaakkola, E., Jönsson, A. M., Olsson, P.-O., Linderson, M.-L., and Holst, T.: Impacts of European spruce bark beetle infestations on Norway spruce BVOC emissions, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7624,, 2021.

Alessandra Teglia, Daniela Di Baccio, Federico Magnani, Matteucci Giorgio, Andrea Scartazza, Bruno De Cinti, Francesco Mazzenga, Enrico Muzzi, Dario Ravaioli, and Graziella Marcolini

Anthropogenic activities resulted in a significant increase in nitrogen (N) compounds in the atmosphere and their deposition back to the biosphere, with important implications on both carbon (C) and N cycles. Indeed, an increase in N deposition can increase forest productivity in N limited forest ecosystems. In addition, it can also increase N loss pathways, leading to soil acidification and nutrient imbalance. Several N manipulation experiments have been carried out for decades till now, though most of them focused on conifer forests. We consider two manipulation experiments established in 2015 on two beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forests in Italy, Cansiglio and Collelongo sites, located on the Eastern Alps and Central Apennines, respectively. The two forests were chosen along a climate and N deposition gradient. Thus, our goal was to assess the effects of simulated N deposition increase on nutritional, physiological status and growth of beech forests from two contrasting climatic conditions. At both sites, N was added directly to the soil as NH4NO3 in two doses: 30 kg N ha-1 yr-1 and 60 kg N ha-1 yr-1. Moreover, in Cansiglio we also included a canopy N fertilization adding 30 kg N ha-1 yr-1. Leaves were collected in 2016 and 2018 for the analyses of nutrients, stable C and N isotopes, and photosynthetic pigments. The aboveground production was periodically monitored with girth band and litterfall collectors. The nutrient stoichiometry analysis showed elevated N concentrations and high N:P in both forests, even in the control plots. N addition significantly increased N:P and N:S ratios in the treated plots. Changes in chlorophyll concentration were mainly related to differences between the two sites, while carotenoids were also influenced by N fertilization. After four years, we did not find an effect of the treatment (regardless of the doses) on both tree growth and leaf biomass. Altogether, our results suggest that both forests were not N limited. Finally, difference between the two manipulation approaches will be discussed in terms of leaf nutrients and C and N stable isotopes in the case of Cansiglio site.

How to cite: Teglia, A., Di Baccio, D., Magnani, F., Giorgio, M., Scartazza, A., De Cinti, B., Mazzenga, F., Muzzi, E., Ravaioli, D., and Marcolini, G.: Effects of simulated nitrogen deposition increase on plant nutritional status and physiological responses at two contrasting Beech forest sites in Italy, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12622,, 2021.

Elena Plekhanova, Pascal A. Niklaus, Jean-Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry, and Gabriela Schaepman-Strub

Global change is affecting biodiversity, with consequences on carbon, water, and energy fluxes between the atmosphere, vegetation, and soil. The interaction of shortwave radiation with vegetation drives basic processes of the biosphere, such as primary productivity or species interactions through light competition.

In our study, we aim to understand the effects of biodiversity on canopy light absorption. We focus on the diversity of three key functional traits that influence the light-canopy interaction: leaf area index, leaf angle distribution and leaf optical properties. Our study is based on the in-silico combination of process-based modelling of radiation (3D radiative transfer model DART) with the well-established design of biodiversity experiments. We used this novel method to study the effects of leaf functional diversity on a light proxy for productivity (the fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (FAPAR)) and net radiation (shortwave albedo). We found that diverse canopies had lower albedo and higher FAPAR than the average of the corresponding monoculture values. In mixtures, FAPAR was unequally re-distributed between trees with distinct leaf traits and the net biodiversity effect on absorptance was greater when combining plant functional types with more distinct traits. Our results support the mechanistic understanding of overyielding effects in functionally diverse canopies and may partially explain some of the growth-promoting mechanisms in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments. They can further help to account for biodiversity effects in dynamic vegetation and climate models.

We would like to present this study in the BG3.22 session, because it 1) contributes to the understanding of fundamental ecosystem functions related to light interaction 2) describes a novel in-silico combination of process-based modelling of radiation with the well-established design of biodiversity experiments.

How to cite: Plekhanova, E., Niklaus, P. A., Gastellu-Etchegorry, J.-P., and Schaepman-Strub, G.: How does leaf functional diversity affect the light environment in forest canopies? An in-silico biodiversity experiment, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-713,, 2021.

Simon Haberstroh, Maria C. Caldeira, Raquel Lobo-do-Vale, Joana I. Martins, Julia Moemken, Joaquim G. Pinto, and Christiane Werner

The impact of interacting global change stressors on terrestrial ecosystems is hard to predict due to non-linear, amplifying, neutral or even buffering interaction effects. We investigated the effects of drought and plant invasion on Mediterranean cork oak (Quercus suber L.) ecosystem functioning and recovery with a combined rain exclusion (30-45 % reduction) and shrub (Cistus ladanifer L.) invasion experiment. As key parameter, we determined tree, shrub and ecosystem transpiration in four treatments: 1) cork oak control stands, 2) cork oaks with rain exclusion, 3) cork oaks invaded by shrubs and 4) cork oaks with rain exclusion and shrub invasion. Rain exclusion and plant invasion led to moderate, but neutral reductions of tree transpiration of 18 % (compared to control) during the mild summer drought in 2018. In 2019, the rain exclusion simulated the second driest year since 1950 for Southwestern (SW) Iberia. The interaction effect of drought and plant invasion was strongly amplifying, reducing tree transpiration by 47 %. Legacy effects on shrubs under the rain exclusion treatment led to a non-linear response during recovery from the severe drought in 2019. Invaded trees showed a delayed transpiration recovery (-51 % vs. control) due to strong competition with shrubs, while invaded trees with rain exclusion recovered to 75 % of the control. This buffering interaction response was caused by a weaker competition from drought-stressed shrubs. Given the projected increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of drought, an increasing non-linear impact on Mediterranean cork oak ecosystems is expected. Our results demonstrate that abiotic stressors modulate biotic interactions thereby impacting ecosystem functioning in a highly dynamic manner. Further efforts are thus needed to model and manage the impact of interacting global change stressors on terrestrial ecosystems.

How to cite: Haberstroh, S., Caldeira, M. C., Lobo-do-Vale, R., Martins, J. I., Moemken, J., Pinto, J. G., and Werner, C.: Non-linear response of Mediterranean ecosystem to interaction of drought and plant invasion, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1518,, 2021.

Aleksanteri Mauranen, Jarmo Mäkelä, Teemu Hölttä, Yann Salmon, and Timo Vesala

Stomatal conductance formulations are of great importance to how land surface models predict carbon assimilation and transpiration in vegetation. In this study, novel stomatal conductance formulations based on the CAP optimisation hypothesis (Dewar et al. 2018) are implemented in the land surface model JSBACH. Besides new stomatal conductance functions, the CAP framework enables a computational streamlining of the resolution of photosynthesis rate and leaf internal CO2 concentration.

The formulations are based on the CAP optimisation hypothesis coupled to different photosynthesis models. Models constructed this way incorporate non-stomatal limitations to photosynthesis through the coupling of carbon assimilation to the soil-to-leaf hydraulic pathway. This entails a direct link from soil water status to stomatal conductance, photosynthesis rate and leaf internal CO2 concentration. While this construction does away with the need for some previous fitted or empirical parameters, new parameters are required to represent xylem hydraulic conductance and downregulation of photosynthesis during drought stress.

These new models are compared to the widely used USO stomatal conductance model (Medlyn et al. 2011). A standalone version of JSBACH is run for single grid cells representing two boreal Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) dominated sites in Finland (Hyytiälä and Sodankylä). Climate forcing is done with FLUXNET data from 2001 through 2012 and observations are from eddy covariance measurements from the two sites.

Preliminary results indicate that some of the new formulations give reasonable results. This is very promising, since they are more detailed and theoretically robust than their semi-empirical predecessors, yet streamline the computational process.

Dewar et al. 2018, New Phytol. 217: 571–581
Medlyn et al. 2011, Glob. Change Biol. 17: 2134–2144

How to cite: Mauranen, A., Mäkelä, J., Hölttä, T., Salmon, Y., and Vesala, T.: The CAP Optimisation Hypothesis Provides Improved Formulations for Stomatal Conductance and Photosynthesis in JSBACH, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11072,, 2021.

Stefano Manzoni, Magnus Lindh, Stefanie Hoeber, and Martin Weih

It has been hypothesized that resource limitation promotes complementary resource use by different species in a plant community. According to this hypothesis, more diverse communities would use available resources more efficiently by exploiting contrasting niches. As a result, diverse communities would have higher overall productivity than monospecific stands in resource-limited systems. While this hypothesis has been tested in various experiments, less attention has been devoted to combined water and nutrient limitation, and variations in complementarity vs. selection effects through time. Understanding these dynamics is particularly important in the context of climatic changes that might alter resource availability—specifically the timing and amount of rainfall. To assess how combined resource limitation alters allocation and productivity in monocultures vs. species mixtures, we set up a pot experiment with full factorial manipulation of both water and nutrient availability, for monocultures and mixtures of two Salix species. To capture expected increases in rainfall intermittency, water availability was manipulated by changing the timing of the water additions—not the total amount provided. Thus, in the infrequent irrigation treatment, longer dry periods occurred between larger water additions, leading to lower water availability at the end of each dry period, compared to the frequent irrigation treatment. The selected species differ in functional traits such as specific leaf area and stem diameter to height ratio, suggesting that they might fill different niches thereby allowing us to test the complementarity hypothesis despite them being closely related. With this experimental set up, we found that the Salix species with higher growth rate suffered the most water stress and that nutrient limitation caused higher root-to-shoot biomass ratio in both species. Both effects were expected, as larger plants growing in nutrient-rich conditions deplete water resources faster, and it is well known that nutrient shortage promotes allocation belowground. Regarding diversity effects, we found that both complementarity and net diversity effects increased through time as resource competition increased, and contrary to expectations were overall higher in the high nutrient supply and frequent watering treatments. These results suggest stronger interactions among the relatively larger plants growing under resource-rich conditions, compared to weak interactions among small plants. In turn, these stronger interactions among large plants might lead to more marked niche separation allowing for resource use complementarity.

How to cite: Manzoni, S., Lindh, M., Hoeber, S., and Weih, M.: Are water and nutrient limitations promoting complementarity in minimal plant communities?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2090,, 2021.