Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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

Subjects

Abstract

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.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

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).

References

  1. Foley, J. A. et al. Global consequences of land use. Science 309, 570–574 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Pielke, R. A. et al. Interactions between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems: influence on weather and climate. Glob. Chang. Biol. 4, 461–475 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bonan, G. B. Forests and climate change: forcings, feedbacks, and the climate benefits of forests. Science 320, 1444–1449 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Pielke, R. A. et al. Land use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis and observational evidence. Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. Chang. 2, 828–850 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Mahmood, R. et al. Land cover changes and their biogeophysical effects on climate. Int. J. Climatol. 34, 929–953 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Beringer, J., Chapin, F. S., Thompson, C. C. & McGuire, a. D. Surface energy exchanges along a tundra-forest transition and feedbacks to climate. Agric. For. Meteorol. 131, 143–161 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Da Rocha, H. R. et al. Patterns of water and heat flux across a biome gradient from tropical forest to savanna in Brazil. J. Geophys. Res. 114, G00B12 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. McAlpine, C. et al. More than CO2: A broader paradigm for managing climate change and variability to avoid ecosystem collapse. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sustain. 2, 334–346 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Otterman, J. Anthropogenic impact on the albedo of the earth. Clim. Change 1, 137–155 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Boucher, O., Myhre, G. & Myhre, A. Direct human influence of irrigation on atmospheric water vapour and climate. Clim. Dynam. 22, 597–603 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bonfils, C. & Lobell, D. Empirical evidence for a recent slowdown in irrigation-induced cooling. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 13582–13587 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Juang, J.-Y. Y., Katul, G., Siqueira, M., Stoy, P. & Novick, K. A. Separating the effects of albedo from eco-physiological changes on surface temperature along a successional chronosequence in the southeastern United States. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, 1–5 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dore, S. et al. Carbon and water fluxes from ponderosa pine forests disturbed by wildfire and thinning. Ecol. Appl. 20, 663–83 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Tilman, D. et al. Beneficial biofuels - the food, energy, and environment trilemma. Science 325, 270–271 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fargione, J., Hill, J., Tilman, D., Polasky, S. & Hawthorne, P. Land clearing and the biofuel carbon debt. Science 319, 1235–8 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Lambin, E. F. & Meyfroidt, P. Global land use change, economic globalization, and the looming land scarcity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 3465–3472 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Reid, W. V et al. Earth system science for global sustainability: Grand challenges. Sci. 330, 916–917 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Foley, J. A. et al. Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478, 337–42 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Baldocchi, D. D. & Ma, S. How will land use affect air temperature in the surface boundary layer? Lessons learned from a comparative study on the energy balance of an oak savanna and annual grassland in California, USA. Tellus B 65, 19994 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Rotenberg, E. & Yakir, D. Distinct patterns of changes in surface energy budget associated with forestation in the semiarid region. Glob. Chang. Biol. 17, 1536–1548 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Stoy, P. C. et al. Separating the effects of climate and vegetation on evapotranspiration along a successional chronosequence in the southeastern US. Glob. Chang. Biol. 12, 2115–2135 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Cho, J. et al. Testing the hypothesis on the relationship between aerodynamic roughness length and albedo using vegetation structure parameters. Int. J. Biometeorol. 56, 411–418 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Bonan, G., Pollard, D. & Thompson, S. Effects of boreal forest vegetation on global climate. Nature 359, 716–718 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lee, X. et al. Observed increase in local cooling effect of deforestation at higher latitudes. Nature 479, 384–387 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Claussen, M., Brovkin, V. & Ganopolski, A. Biogeophysical versus biogeochemical feedbacks of large-scale land cover change. Geophys 28, 1011–1014 (2001).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. De Frenne, P. et al. Microclimate moderates plant responses to macroclimate warming. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 1–5 (2013).

  27. Fall, S., Diffenbaugh, N. S., Niyogi, D., Pielke, R. a. & Rochon, G. Temperature and equivalent temperature over the United States (1979-2005). Int. J. Climatol. 30, 2045–2054 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. McNaughton, K. G. & Spriggs, T. W. A mixed-layer model for regional evaporation. Boundary-Layer Meteorol. 34, 243–262 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Pitman, A. J. J. et al. Uncertainties in climate responses to past land cover change: First results from the LUCID intercomparison study. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, 1–6 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Den Elzen, M. & Schaeffer, M. Responsibility for past and future global warming: uncertainties in attributing anthropogenic climate change. Clim. Change 53, 29–73 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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, https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/). Site-level data were retrieved from the FLUXNET (http://daac.ornl.gov/), IMECC (http://gaia.agraria.unitus.it/) and AMERIFLUX (http://ameriflux.ornl.gov/) 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 (http://www.globallandproject.org).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sebastiaan Luyssaert.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2196

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2196

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing