Land use and climate changes both affect terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we used three combinations of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways and Representative Concentration Pathways (SSP1xRCP26, SSP3xRCP60, and SSP5xRCP85) as input to three dynamic global vegetation models to assess the impacts and associated uncertainty on several ecosystem functions: terrestrial carbon storage and fluxes, evapotranspiration, surface albedo, and runoff. We also performed sensitivity simulations in which we kept either land use or climate (including atmospheric CO2) constant from year 2015 on to calculate the isolated land use versus climate effects. By the 2080–2099 period, carbon storage increases by up to 87 ± 47 Gt (SSP1xRCP26) compared to present day, with large spatial variance across scenarios and models. Most of the carbon uptake is attributed to drivers beyond future land use and climate change, particularly the lagged effects of historic environmental changes. Future climate change typically increases carbon stocks in vegetation but not soils, while future land use change causes carbon losses, even for net agricultural abandonment (SSP1xRCP26). Evapotranspiration changes are highly variable across scenarios, and models do not agree on the magnitude or even sign of change of the individual effects. A calculated decrease in January and July surface albedo (up to −0.021 ± 0.007 and −0.004 ± 0.004 for SSP5xRCP85) and increase in runoff (+67 ± 6 mm/year) is largely driven by climate change. Overall, our results show that future land use and climate change will both have substantial impacts on ecosystem functioning. However, future changes can often not be fully explained by these two drivers and legacy effects have to be considered.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Environmental Science(all)