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Response of vegetation carbon uptake to snow-induced phenological and physiological changes across temperate China

Chen, Shiliu, Huang, Yuefei, Wang, Guangqian
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.692 pp. 188-200
carbon, climate change, gross primary productivity, growing season, phenology, photosynthesis, snow, snowmelt, snowpack, soil water, spring, summer, temperate zones, terrestrial ecosystems, vegetation, water stress, winter, China
Snow cover, which is undergoing significant change along with global climate change, has considerable impacts on the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. However, how snow cover change affects the vegetation gross primary production (GPP) in temperate regions still requires in-depth exploration. In this study, we investigated how changes in the winter snow depth (WSD) and snowmelt date (SMD) affect spring GPP and summer GPP through their influences on the start date of the growing season (SGS) and the maximum daily GPP (GPPmax), respectively, across temperate China from 2001 to 2015, based on both in situ measurements and satellite products (i.e., GLASS GPP, WestDC snow depth and GLEAM soil moisture). Soil moisture is identified as an important factor in the snow-GPP relationship in temperate China. Since most of temperate China is water-limited, thicker snow cover along with later snowmelt generally resulted in earlier SGS via a significant increase in soil moisture (47% of the area), which lengthened the growth period and enhanced spring carbon uptake in these areas. However, in wetter regions (7% of the area), thicker snow cover with later snowmelt would be more likely to delay the SGS, thus reducing spring GPP. Moreover, although the direct impact mechanisms of snow cover dynamics on summer GPP have not been identified, the snow-induced SGS change was found to have delayed effects on summer photosynthesis capacity, as earlier SGS increased the GPPmax, and thus summer GPP. However, the photosynthesis enhanced by earlier SGS meanwhile increased the plant water consumption, which would bring water stress and reduce summer GPP if the subsequent precipitation is unable to compensate for the water consumption. Our findings on the effects of snow cover change on carbon uptake would provide the basic mechanisms for assessing how future climate change will affect ecosystem productivity.