Climate-regulation services of natural and agricultural ecoregions of the Americas

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Terrestrial ecosystems regulate climate through both biogeochemical (greenhouse-gas regulation) and biophysical (regulation of water and energy) mechanisms1,2. However, policies aimed at climate protection through land management, including REDD+ (where REDD is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)3 and bioenergy sustainability standards4, account only for biogeochemical mechanisms. By ignoring biophysical processes, which sometimes offset biogeochemical effects5,6, policies risk promoting suboptimal solutions1,2,4,7,8,9,10. Here, we quantify how biogeochemical11 and biophysical processes combine to shape the climate regulation values of 18 natural and agricultural ecoregions across the Americas. Natural ecosystems generally had higher climate regulation values than agroecosystems, largely driven by differences in biogeochemical services. Biophysical contributions ranged from minimal to dominant. They were highly variable in space, and their relative importance varied with the spatio-temporal scale of analysis. Our findings reinforce the importance of protecting tropical forests7,10,12,13, show that northern forests have a relatively small net effect on climate5,10,13, and indicate that climatic effects of bioenergy production may be more positive when biophysical processes are considered14,15. Ensuring effective climate protection through land management requires consideration of combined biogeochemical and biophysical processes7,8. Our climate regulation value index serves as one potential approach to quantify the full climate services of terrestrial ecosystems.

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Figure 1: Biogeochemical and biophysical climate services (relative to a bare-ground baseline) of natural and agricultural ecoregions of the Americas.
Figure 2: Spatial variation in biophysical climate services of ecosystems (relative to a bare-ground baseline).
Figure 3: Dependence of climate-regulation services on the temporal scale of analysis.


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This research was funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute and the BP Energy Sustainability Challenge Program. The authors acknowledge A. VanLoocke for his contributions to modelling biophysical factors for grasslands and crops.

Author information

K.J.A-T., P.K.S. and E.H.D. conceived the experiment; K.J.A-T., P.K.S., T.E.T., M.H.C. and S.V.C. contributed models; K.J.A-T. compiled biogeochemical data and calculated GHGVs; P.K.S., T.E.T. and S.V.C. ran IBIS/AgroIBIS simulations; K.J.A-T. and P.K.S. analysed data and prepared figures; K.J.A-T. wrote the paper; all authors commented on the analysis and presentation of the data and revised the paper.

Correspondence to Evan H. DeLucia.

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Anderson-Teixeira, K., Snyder, P., Twine, T. et al. Climate-regulation services of natural and agricultural ecoregions of the Americas. Nature Clim Change 2, 177–181 (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1346

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