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Impact of Climate Variability and Extremes on the Carbon Cycle of the Mediterranean Region

March 7, 2013

The Mediterranean is getting drier and warmer, more frequent and intense summer temperature extremes have been observed. Heat waves and its often associa­ted droughts may strongly impact carbon fluxes and thus the carbon sequestration potential of ecosystems. Drought effects may last longer than the drought event itself due to delayed (ecosystem specific) recovery and/or secondary impacts such as altered mortality, pest and pathogen invasions or increased fire risk. Droughts are the main source of inter-annual variation in terrestrial carbon sequestration and its timing is a crucial factor owing to the strong seasonality of Mediterranean climate. The net carbon balance at ecosystem level to regional climate change is hard to predict since a panoply of interacting and partly compensating processes is affected. It is very likely that increased drought intensity and duration will affect primary productivity of the vegetation, but at the same time respiration processes are also reduced, hence compensating the effects on GPP. The Mediterranean can be considered as one of the “hot spot” areas for recent and projected climate change (Giorgi, 2006). As drought and heat waves are expected to become much more intense, longer lasting and more frequent, the carbon sequestration of Mediterranean ecosystems may be reduced by droughts, or even turning into net carbon sources to the atmosphere.

Frank D, Reichstein M, Miglietta F, Pereir JS, 2013, Impact of Climate Variability and Extremes on the Carbon Cycle of the Mediterranean Region, In: A. Navarra and L. Tubiana (eds.), Regional Assessment of Climate Change in the Mediterranean: Volume 2: Agriculture, Forests and Ecosystem Services and People, Advances in Global Change Research 51, doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5772-1_3, 31.-47. Article.

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