Nav: Home

Expansion of agricultural land reduces CO2 absorption

July 05, 2018

Climate change is heavily related to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. During photosynthesis, plants absorb some of the industrial CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, making them contribute significantly to climate protection. "The CO2 increase in the atmosphere is currently lower than to be expected from anthropogenic emissions," says Professor Almut Arneth from the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research - Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU) at KIT Campus Alpin in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 20 to 25 percent of the CO2 released by humans into the atmosphere is currently being absorbed by plants. "This effect curbs climate change; without it global warming would have progressed further by now," the scientist says. "The question is whether it will stay this way in the next few decades."

A research group led by Arneth and Dr Benjamin Quesada at IMK-IFU has dealt with the impact of changes in land use on the expected concentration of carbon dioxide - in other words CO2 projection - in the earth's atmosphere. Their study titled "Potential strong contribution of future anthropogenic land-use and land-cover change to the terrestrial carbon cycle" published in Environmental Research Letters shows that changes in land use have a significant impact on future CO2 absorption from the atmosphere.

If forests are cut down in favor of arable land and pasture land, it reduces the capacity of plants and soil to take up CO2. "The wood in a forest can store more CO2 than corn for example," explains Arneth who in her research deals with the interaction between the atmosphere, plants and soil. If deforestation were to continue, it could even be expected that large parts of the tropics will change from a CO2 basin - which absorbs more CO2 than it releases - to a CO2 source.

Researchers at KIT have summarized the results of five common climate models and looked at seven variables for 25 world regions to better understand the extent to which different changes in land use have an impact on CO2 storage in vegetation, and as a result on the concentration in the atmosphere. The scenarios differ, for example, in how much leaf area there is in relation to soil area, how much the relevant plants grow, and how long a plant grows before it dies and releases CO2 into the atmosphere. All the models were fed with the same assumptions to limit model-related uncertainties through the summary and detailed systematic analysis of the results. This makes the study more significant than previous investigations which were based only on individual models. "We have shown how important it is to include the expansion of agricultural land in climate projections and to adapt the models; there is still a lot of room for improvement," says the environmental researcher. "This study confirms how important it is to work toward ensuring that deforestation in the tropics and globally is reduced or stopped," says Arneth.
-end-
Original publication

Benjamin Quesada, Almut Arneth, Eddy Robertson and Nathalie de Noblet: Potential strong contribution of future anthropogenic land-use and land-cover change to the terrestrial carbon cycle. Environmental Research Letters, 2018. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aac4c3/meta External Link

More information on the KIT Climate and Environment Center: http://www.klima-umwelt.kit.edu External Link

Being „The Research University in the Helmholtz Association", KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. For this, about 9,300 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 25,500 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life.

Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".