Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Land plants process 15 percent of total atmospheric carbon dioxide each year

06.07.2010
Terrestrial ecosystems draw about 123 billion tonnes of carbon (450 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, CO2) from the atmosphere each year. Based on worldwide local measurements and data-driven model simulations, an international team of researchers led by Christian Beer of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena has for the first time provided an observation-based estimate of the largest global flux of carbon between land and atmosphere and of its climate dependencies.

The researchers evaluated the result against spatially explicit process models including the leading model LPJmL from PIK. Tropical ecosystems such as rain forests and savannas account for almost two thirds of the CO2 uptake, they report in an article published by the journal “Science” on the “Science Express” web site today.


The canopy of the Ankasa tropical forest, in Ghana, Africa, picture taken from a flux tower.
Credit: Carboafrica, www.carboafrica.net

“Our results confirm the major role of rainfall for the global carbon cycle: It controls plant uptake of CO2 for over forty percent of all vegetated land,” says Alberte Bondeau of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who contributed computer simulations of global vegetation to the study. Patterns of precipitation are expected to undergo substantial changes with global warming. “This could profoundly affect the productivity of land ecosystems,” Bondeau notes.

The researchers used information from a global network of observation stations to quantify the exchange of CO2 between different ecosystems and the atmosphere. More than 250 observation towers provide continuous measurements. The team used these data to train diagnostic computer models which were then used to compute the value of total worldwide uptake of CO2 by vegetation, the so-called gross primary production of the terrestrial biosphere.

The value of ca. 450 billion tonnes per year describes the total volume of fixation of CO2 in the process of photosynthesis on land and is a function of environmental conditions, particularly of climate variables and vegetation properties. The carbon removed from the atmosphere in this manner later returns to it on various time scales: a large fraction returns quickly due to plant respiration, another large fraction more slowly when leaves decay or woody material decomposes in the soil, or through wildfires. The delay in the return of some of the CO2 fixed by plants to the atmosphere is an important factor controlling the rate of climate change due to human emissions.

Despite its central importance to the global carbon cycle, the study now published is the first to constrain global CO2 intake by vegetation with reasonable confidence. It confirms the prominent role of tropical vegetation in the land carbon cycle and points to a strong relationship between CO2 uptake and precipitation for extended regions of the world.

The research team also compared the observation-based estimate to the results of process-oriented computer models of global ecosystems. Such models are used to assess the future development of the land carbon balance under climate change. Both versions of the model developed at PIK, one for global potential natural vegetation (LPJ) and one including the effects of worldwide agricultural land use (LPJmL) were studied.

The findings show that currently available process models reproduce latitudinal differences in carbon uptake by land vegetation but differ in the simulated magnitude and variation of the process and overestimate the precipitation effect on the gross CO2 uptake. This indicates that additional mechanisms, e.g. adaptation, may serve to attenuate the vegetation response to climate. PIK's LPJmL model, which takes into account the effects of agriculture and especially irrigated croplands, correctly reproduced a reduced sensitivity of carbon uptake to precipitation, though it remains an important climatic factor. The exact causes of the mechanism deserve further study.

“These results are hugely important: They take our understanding of the role of the land surface in climate regulation through CO2 exchange and of global biomass production to the next level. In terms of our ability to model the future, we are on much more solid grounds now,” says Wolfgang Lucht, Co-Chair of PIK’s Department of Climate Impacts and Vulnerability. “The numbers show that amazingly, every seven years all of the carbon dioxide contained in the atmosphere flows once through the world’s leaves. It is one of the most important processes on the planet and we now have a reliable estimate of the magnitude of this flux.”

Article: Beer, C., M. Reichstein, E. Tomelleri, P. Ciais, M. Jung, N. Carvalhais, C. Rödenbeck, M. Altaf Arain, D. Baldocchi, G. B. Bonan, A. Bondeau, A. Cescatti, G. Lasslop, A. Lindroth, M. Lomas, S. Luyssaert, H. Margolis, K. W. Oleson, O. Roupsard, E. Veenendaal, N. Viovy, C. Williams, I. Woodward, and D. Papale, 2010: Terrestrial Gross Carbon Dioxide Uptake: Global Distribution and Co-variation with Climate. Published within the “Science Express” web site: http://www.sciencemag.org/sciencexpress/recent.dtl

Patrick Eickemeier | PIK Potsdam
Further information:
http://www.fluxdata.org -
http://www.carboafrica.net/index_en.asp

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>