Vegetation structural change since 1981 significantly enhanced the terrestrial carbon sink Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractSatellite observations show that leaf area index (LAI) has increased globally since 1981, but the impact of this vegetation structural change on the global terrestrial carbon cycle has not been systematically evaluated. Through process-based diagnostic ecosystem modeling, we find that the increase in LAI alone was responsible for 12.4% of the accumulated terrestrial carbon sink (95 ± 5 Pg C) from 1981 to 2016, whereas other drivers of CO2 fertilization, nitrogen deposition, and climate change (temperature, radiation, and precipitation) contributed to 47.0%, 1.1%, and −28.6% of the sink, respectively. The legacy effects of past changes in these drivers prior to 1981 are responsible for the remaining 65.5% of the accumulated sink from 1981 to 2016. These results refine the attribution of the land sink to the various drivers and would help constrain prognostic models that often have large uncertainties in simulating changes in vegetation and their impacts on the global carbon cycle.


  • Chen, Jing
  • Ju, Weimin
  • Ciais, Philippe
  • Viovy, Nicolas
  • Liu, Ronggao
  • Liu, Yang
  • Lu, Xuehe

publication date

  • September 18, 2019