Satellite-observed pantropical carbon dynamics

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter


Changes in terrestrial tropical carbon stocks have an important role in the global carbon budget. However, current observational tools do not allow accurate and large-scale monitoring of the spatial distribution and dynamics of carbon stocks1. Here, we used low-frequency L-band passive microwave observations to compute a direct and spatially explicit quantification of annual aboveground carbon (AGC) fluxes and show that the tropical net AGC budget was approximately in balance during 2010 to 2017, the net budget being composed of gross losses of −2.86 PgC yr−1 offset by gross gains of −2.97 PgC yr−1 between continents. Large interannual and spatial fluctuations of tropical AGC were quantified during the wet 2011 La Niña year and throughout the extreme dry and warm 2015–2016 El Niño episode. These interannual fluctuations, controlled predominantly by semiarid biomes, were shown to be closely related to independent global atmospheric CO2 growth-rate anomalies (Pearson’s r = 0.86), highlighting the pivotal role of tropical AGC in the global carbon budget.


  • Lei Fan
  • Jean Pierre Wigneron
  • Philippe Ciais
  • Jérôme Chave
  • Martin Brandt
  • Rasmus Fensholt
  • Sassan S. Saatchi
  • Ana Bastos
  • Amen Al-Yaari
  • Koen Hufkens
  • Yuanwei Qin
  • Xiangming Xiao
  • Chi Chen
  • Ranga B. Myneni
  • Roberto Fernandez-Moran
  • Arnaud Mialon
  • N. J. Rodriguez-Fernandez
  • Yann Kerr
  • Feng Tian
  • Josep Peñuelas
External organisations
  • Interaction Sol Plante Atmosphère (ISPA)
  • University of Paris-Saclay
  • Université Paul Sabatier
  • University of Copenhagen
  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • World Orthopaedic Concern
  • Ghent University
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Boston University
  • Valencia University Hospital
  • University of Toulouse
  • CSIC Spanish National Research Council
  • Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry (CERAF)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Plants
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2019
Publication categoryResearch