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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 8 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 2433-2447, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 20 Apr 2018

Research article | 20 Apr 2018

Water-stress-induced breakdown of carbon–water relations: indicators from diurnal FLUXNET patterns

Jacob A. Nelson1, Nuno Carvalhais1,2, Mirco Migliavacca1, Markus Reichstein1,3, and Martin Jung1 Jacob A. Nelson et al.
  • 1Department of Biogeochemical Integration, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
  • 2Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, FCT, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  • 3Michael Stifel Center Jena for Data-Driven and Simulation Science, Jena, Germany

Abstract. Understanding of terrestrial carbon and water cycles is currently hampered by an uncertainty in how to capture the large variety of plant responses to drought. In FLUXNET, the global network of CO2 and H2O flux observations, many sites do not uniformly report the ancillary variables needed to study drought response physiology. To this end, we outline two data-driven indicators based on diurnal energy, water, and carbon flux patterns derived directly from the eddy covariance data and based on theorized physiological responses to hydraulic and non-stomatal limitations. Hydraulic limitations (i.e. intra-plant limitations on water movement) are proxied using the relative diurnal centroid (CET*), which measures the degree to which the flux of evapotranspiration (ET) is shifted toward the morning. Non-stomatal limitations (e.g. inhibitions of biochemical reactions, RuBisCO activity, and/or mesophyll conductance) are characterized by the Diurnal Water–Carbon Index (DWCI), which measures the degree of coupling between ET and gross primary productivity (GPP) within each day. As a proof of concept we show the response of the metrics at six European sites during the 2003 heat wave event, showing a varied response of morning shifts and decoupling. Globally, we found indications of hydraulic limitations in the form of significantly high frequencies of morning-shifted days in dry/Mediterranean climates and savanna/evergreen plant functional types (PFTs), whereas high frequencies of decoupling were dominated by dry climates and grassland/savanna PFTs indicating a prevalence of non-stomatal limitations in these ecosystems. Overall, both the diurnal centroid and DWCI were associated with high net radiation and low latent energy typical of drought. Using three water use efficiency (WUE) models, we found the mean differences between expected and observed WUE to be −0.09 to 0.44µmolmmol−1 and −0.29 to −0.40µmolmmol−1 for decoupled and morning-shifted days, respectively, compared to mean differences −1.41 to −1.42µmolmmol−1 in dry conditions, suggesting that morning shifts/hydraulic responses are associated with an increase in WUE, whereas decoupling/non-stomatal limitations are not.

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Short summary
Plants have typical daily carbon uptake and water loss cycles. However, these cycles may change under periods of duress, such as water limitation. Here we identify two types of patterns in response to water limitations: a tendency to lose more water in the morning than afternoon and a decoupling of the carbon and water cycles. The findings show differences in responses by trees and grasses and suggest that morning shifts may be more efficient at gaining carbon per unit water used.
Plants have typical daily carbon uptake and water loss cycles. However, these cycles may change...