The response of ecosystems to different magnitudes of climate warming and corresponding precipitation changes during the last few decades may provide an important reference for predicting the magnitude and trajectory of net primary productivity (NPP) in the future. In this study, a process-based ecosystem model, Carbon Exchange between Vegetation, Soil and Atmosphere (CEVSA), was used to investigate the response of NPP to warming at both national and subregional scales during 1961–2010. The results suggest that a 1.3°C increase in temperature stimulated the positive changing trend in NPP at national scale during the past 50 years. Regardless of the magnitude of temperature increase, warming enhanced the increase in NPP; however, the positive trend of NPP decreased when warming exceeded 2°C. The largest increase in NPP was found in regions where temperature increased by 1–2°C, and this rate of increase also contributed the most to the total increase in NPP in China's terrestrial ecosystems. Decreasing precipitation depressed the positive trend in NPP that was stimulated by warming. In northern China, warming depressed the increasing trend of NPP and warming that was accompanied by decreasing precipitation led to negative changing trends in NPP in large parts of northern China, especially when warming exceeded 2°C. However, warming stimulated the increase in NPP until warming was greater than 2°C, and decreased precipitation helped to increase the NPP in southern China.

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Published in Ecology and Evolution, v. 7, issue 17, p. 6736–6746.

© 2017 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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This research was supported by the National Nature Science Fund (Grant Nos. 31370463, 41671101, 31290220), the State Key Basic Research Development and Planning Project (Grant Nos. 2010CB950603, 2010CB833503); the CAS Strategic Priority Research Program (Grant Nos. XDA05050601-01-30, XDA05050209, XDA05050602), and the State Scholarship Fund of the China Scholarship Council (Grant No. 201303250032).