skip to main content


Title: Greening of the Earth and its drivers

Global environmental change is rapidly altering the dynamics of terrestrial vegetation, with consequences for the functioning of the Earth system and provision of ecosystem services1, 2. Yet how global vegetation is responding to the changing environment is not well established. Here we use three long-term satellite leaf area index (LAI) records and ten global ecosystem models to investigate four key drivers of LAI trends during 1982 2009. We show a persistent and widespread increase of growing season integrated LAI (greening) over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated area, whereas less than 4% of the globe shows decreasing LAI (browning). Factorial simulations with multiple global ecosystem models suggest that CO2 fertilization effects explain 70% of the observed greening trend, followed by nitrogen deposition (9%), climate change (8%) and land cover change (LCC) (4%). CO2 fertilization effects explain most of the greening trends in the tropics, whereas climate change resulted in greening of the high latitudes and the Tibetan Plateau. LCC contributed most to the regional greening observed in southeast China and the eastern United States. In conclusion, the regional effects of unexplained factors suggest that the next generation of ecosystem models will need to explore the impacts of forest demography,more » differences in regional management intensities for cropland and pastures, and other emerging productivity constraints such as phosphorus availability.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [3] ; ORCiD logo [4] ;  [5] ;  [6] ; ORCiD logo [6] ;  [7] ;  [8] ;  [9] ; ORCiD logo [10] ; ORCiD logo [11] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [3] ;  [8] ;  [12] ;  [13] more »;  [3] ;  [14] ; ORCiD logo [15] ;  [16] ; ORCiD logo [17] ;  [18] ;  [3] ;  [19] ;  [13] ;  [3] ; ORCiD logo [20] ; ORCiD logo [21] « less
  1. Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing (China); Peking Univ., Beijing (China)
  2. Boston Univ., Boston, MA (United States)
  3. Peking Univ., Beijing (China)
  4. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Canberra Australian Capital Territory (Australia)
  5. Peking Univ., Beijing (China); Lab. des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE), CEA CNRS UVSQ, Gif Sur Yvette (France)
  6. Univ. of Exeter, Exeter (United Kingdom)
  7. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany)
  8. Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing (China)
  9. CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra (Australia)
  10. Institute of Applied Energy (IAE), Tokyo (Japan)
  11. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  12. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  13. Beijing Normal Univ., Beijing (China)
  14. CSIC, Global Ecology Unit CREAF-CEAB-UAB, Catalonia (Spain); CREAF, Catalonia (Spain)
  15. Montana State Univ., Bozeman, MT (United States)
  16. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany); Univ. of Birmingham, Birmingham (United Kingdom)
  17. Imperial College London, Ascot (United Kingdom); Univ. of Bern, Bern (Switzerland)
  18. Lab. des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE), CEA CNRS UVSQ, Gif Sur Yvette (France)
  19. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Aspendale, VIC (Australia)
  20. Max-Planck-Institut fur Biogeochemie, Jena (Germany)
  21. Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD (United States)
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Climate Change
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 6; Journal Issue: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 1758-678X
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
OSTI Identifier: