Ecoclimate Lab

New Paper by G. Quetin – Plant Interactions with Climate


A new paper by Greg Quetin in Journal of Climate

Many of us probably have some intuition that a plant growing on the hot dry edge of a desert will not get greener in a warmer year, but will get greener in a wetter year. But what about the hot wet tropics where there is plenty of water, it is scorching hot, and clouds often block the sun?
Using satellite measurements of greenness, estimates of air temperature, and a dataset of rainfall we answer the following questions at each point of the Earth. Does a plant get greener in a warmer year? How about in a wetter year? With these observations we then quantify how the interactions of plants and climate are changed by the annual temperature and precipitation of where the plant grows. Spoiler: plants generally get greener during warmer years in these hot wet environments. Finally, this behavior of getting greener during warmer years starts when plants receive around 2000 mm/year of rainfall.

Drawing from this new analysis, we can use the climate of where the plant grows to propose mechanisms driving the plant climate interactions. For example, to explain how plants mostly get greener when it is warmer in hot wet climates we propose that it happens because there is additional sunshine during warmer years. Increased sunlight provides more energy for plants to photosynthesize and offsets any negative effects of increased temperature. In our paper we detail the plant climate interactions across the globe, proposing mechanisms in cold, hot dry, hot wet and cool wet climates.


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