The impact of alternative trait-scaling hypotheses for the maximum photosynthetic carboxylation rate (Vcmax) on global gross primary production

Anthony P. Walker*, Tristan Quaife, Peter M. van Bodegom, Martin G. De Kauwe, Trevor F. Keenan, Joanna Joiner, Mark R. Lomas, Natasha MacBean, Chongang Xu, Xiaojuan Yang, F. Ian Woodward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The maximum photosynthetic carboxylation rate (Vcmax) is an influential plant trait that has multiple scaling hypotheses, which is a source of uncertainty in predictive understanding of global gross primary production (GPP). Four trait-scaling hypotheses (plant functional type, nutrient limitation, environmental filtering, and plant plasticity) with nine specific implementations were used to predict global Vcmax distributions and their impact on global GPP in the Sheffield Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (SDGVM). Global GPP varied from 108.1 to 128.2 PgC yr−1, 65% of the range of a recent model intercomparison of global GPP. The variation in GPP propagated through to a 27% coefficient of variation in net biome productivity (NBP). All hypotheses produced global GPP that was highly correlated (r = 0.85–0.91) with three proxies of global GPP. Plant functional type-based nutrient limitation, underpinned by a core SDGVM hypothesis that plant nitrogen (N) status is inversely related to increasing costs of N acquisition with increasing soil carbon, adequately reproduced global GPP distributions. Further improvement could be achieved with accurate representation of water sensitivity and agriculture in SDGVM. Mismatch between environmental filtering (the most data-driven hypothesis) and GPP suggested that greater effort is needed understand Vcmax variation in the field, particularly in northern latitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1370-1386
Number of pages17
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 UT-Battelle LLC. New Phytologist © 2017 New Phytologist Trust


  • assumption-centred modelling
  • co-ordination hypothesis
  • Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM)
  • gross primary production (GPP)
  • modelling photosynthesis
  • plant functional traits
  • terrestrial carbon cycle
  • trait-based modelling


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of alternative trait-scaling hypotheses for the maximum photosynthetic carboxylation rate (V<sub>cmax</sub>) on global gross primary production'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this