Multiple greenhouse-gas feedbacks from the land biosphere under future climate change scenarios

Benjamin D. Stocker, Raphael Roth, Fortunat Joos, Renato Spahni, Marco Steinacher, Soenke Zaehle, Lex Bouwman, Xu-Ri, Iain Colin Prentice

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    176 Citations (Scopus)


    Atmospheric concentrations of the three important greenhouse gases (GHGs) CO2, CH4 and N2 O are mediated by processes in the terrestrial biosphere that are sensitive to climate and CO2. This leads to feedbacks between climate and land and has contributed to the sharp rise in atmospheric GHG concentrations since pre-industrial times. Here, we apply a process-based model to reproduce the historical atmospheric N 2 O and CH4 budgets within their uncertainties and apply future scenarios for climate, land-use change and reactive nitrogen (Nr) inputs to investigate future GHG emissions and their feedbacks with climate in a consistent and comprehensive framework. Results suggest that in a business-as-usual scenario, terrestrial N2 O and CH4 emissions increase by 80 and 45%, respectively, and the land becomes a net source of C by AD 2100. N2 O and CH4 feedbacks imply an additional warming of 0.4-0.5C by AD 2300; on top of 0.8-1.0C caused by terrestrial carbon cycle and Albedo feedbacks. The land biosphere represents an increasingly positive feedback to anthropogenic climate change and amplifies equilibrium climate sensitivity by 22-27%. Strong mitigation limits the increase of terrestrial GHG emissions and prevents the land biosphere from acting as an increasingly strong amplifier to anthropogenic climate change.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)666-672
    Number of pages7
    JournalNature Climate Change
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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