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Responses of U.S. Ecosystems to Changing Climate
Xiao, J. and Moody, A. 2004. Photosynthetic activity of US biomes: responses to the spatial variability and seasonality of precipitation and temperature. Global Change Biology 10: 437-451.

What was done
The authors examined the responses of the normalized difference vegetation index integrated over the growing season (gNDVI, a proxy for plant photosynthesis) to annual and seasonal precipitation, maximum temperature (Tmax), and minimum temperature (Tmin) over an 11-year period (1990-2000) for six biomes in the conterminous United States (Evergreen Needleleaf Forest, Deciduous Broadleaf Forest, Mixed Forest, Open Shrubland, Woody Savanna and Grassland), focusing on within- and across-biome variance in long-term average gNDVI and emphasizing the degree to which this variance is explained by spatial gradients in long-term average seasonal climate.

What was learned
Xiao and Moody determined that the greatest positive climate-change impacts on biome productivity were caused by increases in spring, winter and fall precipitation, as well as increases in fall and spring temperature, especially Tmin, which has historically increased at roughly twice the rate of Tmax in the United States.

What it means
"If historical climatic trends and the biotic responses suggested in this analysis continue to hold true," in the words of Xiao and Moody, "we can anticipate further increases in productivity for both forested and nonforested ecoregions in the conterminous US, with associated implications for carbon budgets and woody proliferation."

We can live with that. In fact, we - and the country's major biomes - can flourish with it.

Reviewed 1 March 2006