: Forests play a major role in the global carbon cycle. Previous studies on the capacity of forests to sequester atmospheric CO2 have mostly focused on carbon uptake, but the roles of carbon turnover time and its spatiotemporal changes remain poorly understood. Here, we used long-term inventory data (1955-2018) from 695 mature forest plots to quantify temporal trends in living vegetation carbon turnover time across tropical, temperate, and cold climate zones, and compared plot data to eight Earth system models (ESMs). Long-term plots consistently showed decreases in living vegetation carbon turnover time, likely driven by increased tree mortality across all major climate zones. Changes in living vegetation carbon turnover time were negatively correlated with CO2 enrichment in both forest plot data and ESM simulations. However, plot-based correlations between living vegetation carbon turnover time and climate drivers such as precipitation and temperature diverged from those of ESM simulations. Our analyses suggest that forest carbon sinks are likely to be constrained by a decrease in living vegetation carbon turnover time, and accurate projections of forest carbon sink dynamics will require an improved representation of tree mortality processes and their sensitivity to climate in ESMs.
The widely documented phenomenon of nighttime stomatal conductance (gsn) could lead to substantial water loss with no carbon gain, and thus it remains unclear whether nighttime stomatal conductance confers a functional advantage. Given that studies of gsn have focused on controlled environments or small numbers of species in natural environments, a broad phylogenetic and biogeographic context could provide insights into potential adaptive benefits of gsn. • We measured gsn on a diverse suite of species (n = 73) across various functional groups and climates-of-origin in a common garden to study the phylogenetic and biogeographic/climatic controls on gsn and further assessed the degree to which gsn co-varied with leaf functional traits and daytime gas exchange rates. • Closely related species were more similar in gsn than expected by chance. Herbaceous species had higher gsn than woody species. Species that typically grow in climates with lower mean annual precipitation – where the fitness cost of water loss should be the highest – generally had higher gsn. • Our results reveal the highest gsn rates in species from environments where neighboring plants compete most strongly for water, suggesting a possible role for the competitive advantage of gsn.