University of Oulu

López-Blanco, E., Langen, P. L., Williams, M., Christensen, J. H., Boberg, F., Langley, K., & Christensen, T. R. (2022). The future of tundra carbon storage in Greenland – Sensitivity to climate and plant trait changes. Science of The Total Environment, 846, 157385.

The future of tundra carbon storage in Greenland : sensitivity to climate and plant trait changes

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Author: López-Blanco, Efrén1,2; Langen, Peter L.3; Williams, Mathew4;
Organizations: 1Department of Environment and Minerals, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Kivioq 2, PO Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
2Department of Ecoscience, Arctic Research Center, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
3Department of Environmental Sciences, iClimate, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
4School of GeoSciences and NCEO, University of Edinburgh, Alexander Crum Brown Road, EH9 3FF Edinburgh, UK
5Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University, Tagensvej 16, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
6Danish Meteorological Institute, Lyngbyvej 100, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
7NORCE, Norwegian Research Centre AS, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, P.O.B 22 Nygårdstangen, 5838 Bergen, Norway
8Asiaq, Greenland Survey, Qatserisut 8, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland
9Oulanka Research Station, Oulu University, PO Box 8000, 90014, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.2 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-03-01


The continuous change in observed key indicators such as increasing nitrogen deposition, temperatures and precipitation will have marked but uncertain consequences for the ecosystem carbon (C) sink-source functioning of the Arctic. Here, we use multiple in-situ data streams measured by the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring programme in tight connection with the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere model and climate projections from the high-resolution HIRHAM5 regional model. We apply this modelling framework with focus on two climatically different tundra sites in Greenland (Zackenberg and Kobbefjord) to assess how sensitive the net C uptake will expectedly be under warmer and wetter conditions across the 21st century and pin down the relative contribution to the overall C sink strength from climate versus plant trait variability.

Our results suggest that temperatures (5–7.7 °C), total precipitation (19–110 %) and vapour pressure deficit will increase (32–36 %), while shortwave radiation will decline (6–9 %) at both sites by 2100 under the RCP8.5 scenario. Such a combined effect will, on average, intensify the net C uptake by 9–10 g C m−2 year−1 at both sites towards the end of 2100, but Zackenberg is expected to have more than twice the C sink strength capacity of Kobbefjord. Our sensitivity analysis not only reveals that plant traits are the most sensitive parameters controlling the net C exchange in both sites at the beginning and end of the century, but also that the projected increase in the net C uptake will likely be similarly influenced by future changes in climate and existing local nutrient conditions. A series of experiments forcing realistic changes in plant nitrogen status at both sites corroborates this hypothesis.

This work proves the unique synergy between monitoring data and numerical models to assist robust model calibration/validation and narrow uncertainty ranges and ultimately produce more reliable C cycle projections in understudied regions such as Greenland.

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Series: Science of the total environment
ISSN: 0048-9697
ISSN-E: 1879-1026
ISSN-L: 0048-9697
Volume: 846
Article number: 157385
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.157385
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was supported by the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring programme ( funded by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency and the Danish Energy Agency. The authors wish to thank the Nuuk and Zackenberg Ecological Research Operations. We thank more specifically the GeoBasis and ClimateBasis sub-programmes that manage the eddy covariance systems as well as the in-situ climate stations. We want to also thank the Danish Meteorological Institute for sharing the high-resolution downscaled climate data used in this study. ELB was supported by the Greenland Research Council (GRC) grant number 80.35, financed by the “Danish Program for Arctic Research”. Additionally, ELB gratefully acknowledges the support from NVIDIA Academic Hardware Grant Program donating a high capacity Quadro RTX 8000 GPU to the modelling effort emerging from the above mentioned GRC grant. We thank Luke Smallman for support in developing the SPA model. ELB would like to also thank Ida B. D. Jacobsen for active discussions on nutrient availability controls in plants. PLL gratefully acknowledges the contributions of Aarhus University Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change (iClimate, Aarhus University). We finally thank Anne M. Poulsen from the Department of Ecoscience in Aarhus University for the professional language editing assistance.
Dataset Reference: In-situ data are archived and freely available in the GEM database ( while HIRHAM5 climate data can be found in
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (