Carbon cycling under 300 years of land use change: importance of the secondary vegetation sink

Elena Shevliakova, Stephen Wilson Pacala, Sergey Malyshev, George C. Hurtt, P. C.D. Milly, John P. Caspersen, Lori T. Sentman, Justin P. Fisk, Christian Wirth, Cyril Crevoisier

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243 Scopus citations

Abstract

We have developed a dynamic land model (LM3V) able to simulate ecosystem dynamics and exchanges of water, energy, and CO2 between land and atmosphere. LM3V is specifically designed to address the consequences of land use and land management changes including cropland and pasture dynamics, shifting cultivation, logging, fire, and resulting patterns of secondary regrowth. Here we analyze the behavior of LM3V, forced with the output from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) atmospheric model AM2, observed precipitation data, and four historic scenarios of land use change for 1700-2000. Our analysis suggests a net terrestrial carbon source due to land use activities from 1.1 to 1.3 GtC/a during the 1990s, where the range is due to the difference in the historic cropland distribution. This magnitude is substantially smaller than previous estimates from other models, largely due to our estimates of a secondary vegetation sink of 0.35 to 0.6 GtC/a in the 1990s and decelerating agricultural land clearing since the 1960s. For the 1990s, our estimates for the pastures' carbon flux vary from a source of 0.37 to a sink of 0.15 GtC/a, and for the croplands our model shows a carbon source of 0.6 to 0.9 GtC/a. Our process-based model suggests a smaller net deforestation source than earlier bookkeeping models because it accounts for decelerated net conversion of primary forest to agriculture and for stronger secondary vegetation regrowth in tropical regions. The overall uncertainty is likely to be higher than the range reported here because of uncertainty in the biomass recovery under changing ambient conditions, including atmospheric CO2 concentration, nutrients availability, and climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberGB2022
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science

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