IoE researcher's paper on the global carbon cycle published in Nature

Greening of an Australian shrubland, north of Alice Springs, 2011, credit: Eva van Gorsel, CSIRO

A paper authored by Ben Poulter, Institute on Ecosystems researcher and assistant professor of ecology at Montana State University, has been published in the journal Nature. Poulter's work outlines the contribution of semi-arid ecosystems to interannual variability of the global carbon cycle. It is is co-authored by IoE researcher and University of Montana Regents Professor Steve Running along with researchers from around the world.

The paper, titled “Contribution of semiarid ecosystems to interannual variability of the global carbon cycle," suggests that the Earth's record jump in carbon uptake in 2011 was due to enhanced vegetation growth in Australia, South America and South Africa following La Nina-driven increases in rainfall. While tropical ecosystems are generally considered Earth's most prominent land-based carbon sinks, this new research shows that dryland ecosystems also play an important role in carbon cycle dynamics.

"The emerging role of semi-arid ecosystems on inter-annual global carbon budget dynamics is unexpected and due to a combination of greater than average rainfall in 2010 and 2011 and also long-term changes in dryland vegetation," said Poulter.

The journal Nature published the research on May 21.

Poulter and Running are part of the Montana University System’s Institute on Ecosystems, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).


The paper is available online at

Photos are available at



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