Asymmetric Responses of Primary Productivity to Altered Precipitation Simulated by Ecosystem Models across Three Longterm Grassland Sites

TitleAsymmetric Responses of Primary Productivity to Altered Precipitation Simulated by Ecosystem Models across Three Longterm Grassland Sites
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationIn Press
AuthorsWu, D, Ciais, P, Viovy, N, Knapp, AK, Wilcox, KR, Bahn, M, Smith, MD, Vicca, S, Fatichi, S, Zscheischler, J, He, Y, Li, X, Ito, A, Arneth, A, Harper, A, Ukkola, A, Paschalis, A, Poulter, B, Peng, C, Ricciuto, D, Reinthaler, D, Chen, G, Tian, H, Genet, H, Mao, J, Ingrisch, J, Nabel, JESM, Pongratz, J, Boysen, LR, Kautz, M, Schmitt, M, Meir, P, Zhu, Q, Hasibeder, R, Sippel, S, Dangal, SRS, Sitch, S, Shi, X, Wang, Y, Luo, Y, Liu, Y, Piao, S
JournalBiogeosciences Discussions

Changes in precipitation variability are known to influence grassland growth. Field measurements of aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) in temperate grasslands suggest that both positive and negative asymmetric responses to changes in precipitation may occur. Under normally variable precipitation regimes, wet years typically result in ANPP gains being larger than ANPP declines in dry years (positive asymmetry), whereas increases in ANPP are lower in magnitude in extreme wet years compared to reductions during extreme drought (negative asymmetry). Whether ecosystem models that couple carbon-water system in grasslands are capable of simulating these non-symmetrical ANPP responses is an unresolved question. In this study, we evaluated the simulated responses of temperate grassland primary productivity to scenarios of altered precipitation with fourteen ecosystem models at three sites, Shortgrass Steppe (SGS), Konza Prairie (KNZ) and Stubai Valley meadow (STU), spanning a rainfall gradient from dry to moist. We found that: (1) Gross primary productivity (GPP), NPP, ANPP and belowground NPP (BNPP) showed concave-down nonlinear response curves to altered precipitation in all the models, but with different curvatures and mean values. (2) The slopes of spatial relationships (across sites) between modeled primary productivity and precipitation were steeper than the temporal slopes obtained from inter-annual variations, consistent with empirical data. (3) The asymmetry of the responses of modeled primary productivity under normal inter-annual precipitation variability differed among models, and the median of the model-ensemble suggested a negative asymmetry across the three sites, in contrast to empirical studies. (4) The median sensitivity of modeled productivity to rainfall consistently suggested greater negative impacts with reduced precipitation than positive effects with increased precipitation under extreme conditions. This study indicates that most models overestimate the extent of negative drought effects and/or underestimate the impacts of increased precipitation on primary productivity under normal climate conditions, highlighting the need for improving eco-hydrological processes in models.