Historical carbon dioxide emissions caused by land-use changes are possibly larger than assumed

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragÖversiktsartikel


The terrestrial biosphere absorbs about 20% of fossil-fuel CO 2 emissions. The overall magnitude of this sink is constrained by the difference between emissions, the rate of increase in atmospheric CO 2 concentrations, and the ocean sink. However, the land sink is actually composed of two largely counteracting fluxes that are poorly quantified: fluxes from land-use change and CO 2 uptake by terrestrial ecosystems. Dynamic global vegetation model simulations suggest that CO 2 emissions from land-use change have been substantially underestimated because processes such as tree harvesting and land clearing from shifting cultivation have not been considered. As the overall terrestrial sink is constrained, a larger net flux as a result of land-use change implies that terrestrial uptake of CO 2 is also larger, and that terrestrial ecosystems might have greater potential to sequester carbon in the future. Consequently, reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation could represent important mitigation pathways, with co-benefits for biodiversity. It is unclear whether a larger land carbon sink can be reconciled with our current understanding of terrestrial carbon cycling. Our possible underestimation of the historical residual terrestrial carbon sink adds further uncertainty to our capacity to predict the future of terrestrial carbon uptake and losses.


  • A. Arneth
  • S. Sitch
  • J. Pongratz
  • B. D. Stocker
  • P. Ciais
  • B. Poulter
  • A. D. Bayer
  • A. Bondeau
  • L. Calle
  • L. P. Chini
  • T. Gasser
  • M. Fader
  • P. Friedlingstein
  • E. Kato
  • W. Li
  • J. E.M.S. Nabel
  • E. Robertson
  • N. Viovy
  • C. Yue
  • S. Zaehle
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Geography College of Life and Environmental Sciences
  • University of Exeter
  • Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
  • Imperial College London
  • ETH Zürich
  • Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Aix-Marseille University
  • University of Maryland
  • Federal Institute of Hydrology
  • Institute of Applied Energy (IAE)
  • University of Birmingham
  • Met Ofce Hadley Centre
  • Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Miljövetenskap
Sidor (från-till)79-84
Antal sidor6
TidskriftNature Geoscience
Utgåva nummer2
StatusPublished - 2017 feb 1
Peer review utfördJa