Climate science

Future land-carbon loss

J. Clim. http://doi.org/k8m (2013)

Credit: © ISTOCKPHOTO / THINKSTOCK

Human activities have altered around one-third to one-half of the world's land surface, with significant consequences for climate, particularly in the high latitudes. Climate model simulations suggest that future changes in land use could further alter regional climate over the coming century.

Victor Brovkin of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany and colleagues assessed the effect of changes in land use and cover on climate over the twenty-first century, using six Earth system models. Projected changes in land use — taken from the fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project — had little impact on twenty-first century climate at the global scale. However, a small but statistically significant change in mean annual temperature was apparent in regions of intensive land-use change in three of the models. In these regions, temperature change was associated with a reduction in the flux of water from the surface to the atmosphere, along with an increase in surface reflectivity.

Common to all models was a reduction in the size of the land carbon sink in response to altered land management, particularly in the tropics, where future changes are expected to be concentrated.

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Armstrong, A. Future land-carbon loss. Nature Geosci 6, 330 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1819

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