Diagnosing destabilization risk in global land carbon sinks

Aug 1, 2023

Global net land carbon uptake or net biome production (NBP) has increased during recent decades. Whether its temporal variability and autocorrelation have changed during this period, however, remains elusive, even though an increase in both could indicate an increased potential for a destabilized carbon sink. Here, we investigate the trends and controls of net terrestrial carbon uptake and its temporal variability and autocorrelation from 1981 to 2018 using two atmospheric-inversion models, the amplitude of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2 concentration derived from nine monitoring stations distributed across the Pacific Ocean and dynamic global vegetation models. We find that annual NBP and its interdecadal variability increased globally whereas temporal autocorrelation decreased. We observe a separation of regions characterized by increasingly variable NBP, associated with warm regions and increasingly variable temperatures, lower and weaker positive trends in NBP and regions where NBP became stronger and less variable. Plant species richness presented a concave-down parabolic spatial relationship with NBP and its variability at the global scale whereas nitrogen deposition generally increased NBP. Increasing temperature and its increasing variability appear as the most important drivers of declining and increasingly variable NBP. Our results show increasing variability of NBP regionally that can be mostly attributed to climate change and that may point to destabilization of the coupled carbon–climate system.

Publication details
Carbon dioxide removal
Research paper
Obersteiner, Michael

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