Key message: Stand age, water availability, and the length of the warm period are the most influencing controls of forest structure, functioning, and efficiency. We aimed to discern the distribution and controls of plant biomass, carbon fluxes, and resource-use efficiencies of forest ecosystems ranging from boreal to tropical forests. We analysed a global forest database containing estimates of stand biomass and carbon fluxes (400 and 111 sites, respectively) from which we calculated resource-use efficiencies (biomass production, carbon sequestration, light, and water-use efficiencies). We used the WorldClim climatic database and remote-sensing data derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer to analyse climatic controls of ecosystem functioning. The influences of forest type, stand age, management, and nitrogen deposition were also explored. Tropical forests exhibited the largest gross carbon fluxes (photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration), but rather low net ecosystem production, which peaks in temperate forests. Stand age, water availability, and length of the warm period were the main factors controlling forest structure (biomass) and functionality (carbon fluxes and efficiencies). The interaction between temperature and precipitation was the main climatic driver of gross primary production and ecosystem respiration. The mean resource-use efficiency varied little among biomes. The spatial variability of biomass stocks and their distribution among ecosystem compartments were strongly correlated with the variability in carbon fluxes, and both were strongly controlled by climate (water availability, temperature) and stand characteristics (age, type of leaf). Gross primary production and ecosystem respiration were strongly correlated with mean annual temperature and precipitation only when precipitation and temperature were not limiting factors. Finally, our results suggest a global convergence in mean resource-use efficiencies. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
- Carbon cycle
- Nitrogen deposition