The Effects of Land Use and Management on the Global Carbon Cycle

  • R. A. Houghton
  • Fortunat Joos
  • Gregory P. Asner
Part of the Remote Sensing and Digital Image Processing book series (RDIP, volume 6)


Major uncertainties in the global carbon (C) balance and in projections of atmospheric CO2 include the magnitude of the net flux of C between the atmosphere and land and the mechanisms responsible for that flux. A number of approaches, both top-down and bottom-up, have been used to estimate the net terrestrial C flux, but they generally fail to distinguish possible mechanisms. In contrast, calculations of C-fluxes based on landuse statistics yield both an estimate of flux and its attribution, that is, land-use change. A comparison of the flux calculated from land-use change with estimates of the changes in terrestrial C storage defines a residual terrestrial C sink flux of up to 3 PgC yr-1, usually attributed to the enhancement of growth through environmental changes (for example, CO2 fertilization, increased availability of N, climatic change). We explore whether management (generally not considered in analyses of land-use change), instead of environmental changes, might account for the residual sink flux. We are unable to answer the question definitively. Large uncertainties in estimates of terrestrial C fluxes from top-down analyses and land-use statistics prevent any firm conclusion for the tropics. Changes in land use alone might explain the entire terrestrial sink if changes in management practices, not considered in analyses of land-use change, have created a sink in the northern mid-latitudes.


Forest Inventory Global Carbon Cycle Global Biogeochemical Cycle Undisturbed Forest Global Change Biology 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. A. Houghton
    • 1
  • Fortunat Joos
    • 2
  • Gregory P. Asner
    • 3
  1. 1.Woods Hole Research CenterWoods HoleUSA
  2. 2.Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics InstituteUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Global EcologyCarnegie InstitutionStanfordUSA

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