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Local ecosystem feedbacks and critical transitions in the climate

By M. Rietkerk, V. Brovkin, P.M. van Bodegom, M. Claussen, S.C. Dekker, H.A. Dijkstra, S.V. Goryachkin, P. Kabat, E.H. van Nes, Anje-Margriet Neutel, S.E. Nicholson, C. Nobre, V. Petoukhov, A. Provenzale, M. Scheffer and S.I. Seneviratne


Global and regional climate models, such as those used in IPCC assessments, are the best tools available for climate predictions. Such models typically account for large-scale land-atmosphere feedbacks. However, these models omit local vegetation-environment feedbacks that are crucial for critical transitions in ecosystems. Here, we reveal the hypothesis that, if the balance of feedbacks is positive at all scales, local vegetation-environment feedbacks may trigger a cascade of amplifying effects, propagating from local to large scale, possibly leading to critical transitions in the large-scale climate. We call for linking local ecosystem feedbacks with large-scale land-atmosphere feedbacks in global and regional climate models in order to yield climate predictions that we are more confident about.\u

Topics: Meteorology and Climatology, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Copernicus Publications
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.5194/bgd-6-10121-2009
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