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A process-model perspective on recent changes in the carbon cycle of North America

September 1, 2022

Continental North America has been found to be a carbon (C) sink over recent decades by multiple studies employing a variety of estimation approaches. However, several key questions and uncertainties remain with these assessments. Here we used results from an ensemble of 19 state-of-the-art dynamic global vegetation models from the TRENDYv9 project to improve these estimates and study the drivers of its interannual variability. Our results show that North America has been a C sink with a magnitude of 0.37 ± 0.38 (mean and one standard deviation) PgC year−1 for the period 2000–2019 (0.31 and 0.44 PgC year−1 in each decade); split into 0.18 ± 0.12 PgC year−1 in Canada (0.15 and 0.20), 0.16 ± 0.17 in the United States (0.14 and 0.17), 0.02 ± 0.05 PgC year−1 in Mexico (0.02 and 0.02) and 0.01 ± 0.02 in Central America and the Caribbean (0.01 and 0.01). About 57% of the new C assimilated by terrestrial ecosystems is allocated into vegetation, 30% into soils, and 13% into litter. Losses of C due to fire account for 41% of the interannual variability of the mean net biome productivity for all North America in the model ensemble. Finally, we show that drought years (e.g., 2002) have the potential to shift the region to a small net C source in the simulations (−0.02 ± 0.46 PgC year−1). Our results highlight the importance of identifying the major drivers of the interannual variability of the continental-scale land C cycle along with the spatial distribution of local sink-source dynamics.

Publication Year 2022
Title A process-model perspective on recent changes in the carbon cycle of North America
DOI 10.1029/2022JG006904
Authors Guillermo Murray-Tortarolo, Benjamin Poulter, Rodrigo Vargas, Daniel B. Hayes, Anna M. Michalak, Christopher J. Williams, Lisamarie Windham-Myers, Jonathan Wang, Kimberly Wickland, David Butman, Hanqin Tian, Stephen Sitch, Pierre Friedlingstein, Michael O'Sullivan, Peter Briggs, Vivek Arora, Danielle Lombardozzi, Atul Jain, Wenping Yuan, Roland Seferian, Julia Nabel, Andrea Wiltshire, Almuth Arneth, Sebastian Lienerte, Sonke Zaehle, Vladislov Bastrikov, Daniel Goll, Nicholas Vuichard, Anthony P. Walker, Etushi Kato, Yue Xu, Zhen Zhang, Abishek Chaterjee, Werner A. Kurz
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences
Index ID 70236641
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division