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      Recent patterns and mechanisms of carbon exchange by terrestrial ecosystems.

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          Abstract

          Knowledge of carbon exchange between the atmosphere, land and the oceans is important, given that the terrestrial and marine environments are currently absorbing about half of the carbon dioxide that is emitted by fossil-fuel combustion. This carbon uptake is therefore limiting the extent of atmospheric and climatic change, but its long-term nature remains uncertain. Here we provide an overview of the current state of knowledge of global and regional patterns of carbon exchange by terrestrial ecosystems. Atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen data confirm that the terrestrial biosphere was largely neutral with respect to net carbon exchange during the 1980s, but became a net carbon sink in the 1990s. This recent sink can be largely attributed to northern extratropical areas, and is roughly split between North America and Eurasia. Tropical land areas, however, were approximately in balance with respect to carbon exchange, implying a carbon sink that offset emissions due to tropical deforestation. The evolution of the terrestrial carbon sink is largely the result of changes in land use over time, such as regrowth on abandoned agricultural land and fire prevention, in addition to responses to environmental changes, such as longer growing seasons, and fertilization by carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Nevertheless, there remain considerable uncertainties as to the magnitude of the sink in different regions and the contribution of different processes.

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          Observed atmospheric concentrations of CO(2) and data on the partial pressures of CO(2) in surface ocean waters are combined to identify globally significant sources and sinks of CO(2). The atmospheric data are compared with boundary layer concentrations calculated with the transport fields generated by a general circulation model (GCM) for specified source-sink distributions. In the model the observed north-south atmospheric concentration gradient can be maintained only if sinks for CO(2) are greater in the Northern than in the Southern Hemisphere. The observed differences between the partial pressure of CO(2) in the surface waters of the Northern Hemisphere and the atmosphere are too small for the oceans to be the major sink of fossil fuel CO(2). Therefore, a large amount of the CO(2) is apparently absorbed on the continents by terrestrial ecosystems.
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            Global response of terrestrial ecosystem structure and function to CO2and climate change: results from six dynamic global vegetation models

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1038/35102500
                11700548

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