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Land management and land-cover change have impacts of similar magnitude on surface temperature



Anthropogenic changes to land cover (LCC) remain common, but continuing land scarcity promotes the widespread intensification of land management changes (LMC) to better satisfy societal demand for food, fibre, fuel and shelter1. The biophysical effects of LCC on surface climate are largely understood2,3,4,5, particularly for the boreal6 and tropical zones7, but fewer studies have investigated the biophysical consequences of LMC; that is, anthropogenic modification without a change in land cover type. Harmonized analysis of ground measurements and remote sensing observations of both LCC and LMC revealed that, in the temperate zone, potential surface cooling from increased albedo is typically offset by warming from decreased sensible heat fluxes, with the net effect being a warming of the surface. Temperature changes from LMC and LCC were of the same magnitude, and averaged 2 K at the vegetation surface and were estimated at 1.7 K in the planetary boundary layer. Given the spatial extent of land management (42–58% of the land surface) this calls for increasing the efforts to integrate land management in Earth System Science to better take into account the human impact on the climate8.

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Figure 1: Effects of land cover change and land management on surface temperature.
Figure 2: The relationship between changes in albedo (Δα) and changes in surface temperature (ΔTs) following land cover conversions (blue) and land management change (red).
Figure 3: Biophysical effects of land cover change (blue) or land management (red).
Figure 4: Effects of land cover change and land management on the height and equivalent temperature of the planetary boundary layer.
Figure 5: Spatial extent of land cover change, land management, wilderness and non-productive areas (Supplementary Section 2.3).


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MODIS land surface temperature, black sky albedo, and the enhanced vegetation index were retrieved from the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Centre (LP DAAC, Site-level data were retrieved from the FLUXNET (, IMECC ( and AMERIFLUX ( databases. Christophe Moisy prepared Supplementary Fig. 1. S.L., M.J., J.O., M.J.M., K.Naudts and J.R. were funded through ERC starting grant 242564 and received additional funding through FWO-Vlaanderen. M.J. received funding also through the Nordic Centre of Excellence, DEFROST, under the Nordic Top-Level Research Initiative and the Center for Permafrost, CENPERM DNRF number 100. T.K. and S.E. were funded through the Einstein Foundation and the European Commission (VOLANTE FP7-ENV-265104). K.H.E. acknowledges funding from ERC starting grant 263522 LUISE. E.C. and M.F. received funding from the European Commission, FEDER Interreg Iva, 723 POCTEFA08/34 and ADEME. M.W. acknowledges funding from the German Research Foundation (DFG) through the SPP1257 priority program, and the European Commission FP-7 226701 (CARBO-Extreme) and FP7-244122 (GHG-Europe), also for A.J.D. P.C.S. acknowledges funding from the US NSF EF #1241881, the Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship Programme, and the MT Institute on Ecosystems. The authors acknowledge the financial help of the European Commission through COST ES0805 for organizing the Potsdam workshop in support of this study, and the IMECC Integrated Infrastructure Initiative (I3) project under the 6th Framework Program (contract number 026188). This study contributes to the Global Land Project (

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S.L., M.J., S.E., J.P., E.C., G.C., A.J.D., K.H.E., M.F., R.A.H., K.K., A.K., T. Kuemmerle, A.L., P.M., J.O., M.W. and P.C.S. designed the study. S.E., T. Kuemmerle. and J.O. analysed the remote sensing data. M.J., P.C.S., J.R. and S.L. analysed the site-level data. J.P., P.M. and K.H.E. analysed the land cover and land management data. E.C., A.J.D., A.D., M.F., B.G., T.G., A.K., T. Kolb, T.L., A.L., D.L., E.J.M., K.Novick, K.P., C.A.P., S.R., C.R., A.E.S., A.V. and P.C.S. provided site-level data. S.L., M.J., S.E., J.P., E.C., G.C., A.J.D., A.D., K.H.E., M.F., B.G., R.A.H., K.K., A.K., T. Kolb, T.Kuemmerle, A.L., M.J.M., P.M., E.J.M., K. Nauds, K. Novick, J.O., S.R., J.R., A.V., M.W. and P.C.S. contributed to discussing the results and writing the paper.

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Correspondence to Sebastiaan Luyssaert.

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Luyssaert, S., Jammet, M., Stoy, P. et al. Land management and land-cover change have impacts of similar magnitude on surface temperature. Nature Clim Change 4, 389–393 (2014).

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