Anthropogenic land-use and land cover changes (LULCC) affect global climate and global terrestrial carbon (C) cycle. However, relatively few studies have quantified the impacts of future LULCC on terrestrial carbon cycle. Here, using Earth system model simulations performed with and without future LULCC, under the RCP8.5 scenario, we find that in response to future LULCC, the carbon cycle is substantially weakened: browning, lower ecosystem C stocks, higher C loss by disturbances and higher C turnover rates are simulated. Projected global greening and land C storage are dampened, in all models, by 22% and 24% on average and projected C loss by disturbances enhanced by ∼49% when LULCC are taken into account. By contrast, global net primary productivity is found to be only slightly affected by LULCC (robust +4% relative enhancement compared to all forcings, on average). LULCC is projected to be a predominant driver of future C changes in regions like South America and the southern part of Africa. LULCC even cause some regional reversals of projected increased C sinks and greening, particularly at the edges of the Amazon and African rainforests. Finally, in most carbon cycle responses, direct removal of C dominates over the indirect CO2 fertilization due to LULCC. In consequence, projections of land C sequestration potential and Earth's greening could be substantially overestimated just because of not fully accounting for LULCC.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Environmental Science(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health