Maximum impacts of future reforestation or deforestation on atmospheric CO2

Joanna I. House*, I. Colin Prentice, C. Corinne Le Quéré

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There is scope for land-use changes to increase or decrease CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere over the next century. Here we make simple but robust calculations of the maximum impact of such changes. Historical land-use changes (mostly deforestation) and fossil fuel emissions have caused an increase in atmospheric concentration of CO2 of 90 ppm between the pre-industrial era and year 2000. The projected range of CO2 concentrations in 2100, under a range of emissions scenarios developed for the IPCC, is 170-600 ppm above 2000 levels. This range is mostly due to different assumptions regarding fossil fuel emissions. If all of the carbon so far released by land-use changes could be restored to the terrestrial biosphere, atmospheric CO2 concentration at the end of the century would be about 40-70 ppm less than it would be if no such intervention had occurred. Conversely, complete global deforestation over the same time frame would increase atmospheric concentrations by about 130-290 ppm. These are extreme assumptions; the maximum feasible reforestation and afforestation activities over the next 50 years would result in a reduction in CO2 concentration of about 15-30 ppm by the end of the century. Thus the time course of fossil fuel emissions will be the major factor in determining atmospheric CO2 concentrations for the foreseeable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1052
Number of pages6
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume8
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon sinks
  • Carbon sources
  • Deforestation
  • Land-use change
  • Reforestation

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