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Biodiversity loss reduces global terrestrial carbon storage

May 22, 2024

Natural ecosystems store large amounts of carbon globally, as organisms absorb carbon from the atmosphere to build large, long-lasting, or slow-decaying structures such as tree bark or root systems. An ecosystem’s carbon sequestration potential is tightly linked to its biological diversity. Yet when considering future projections, many carbon sequestration models fail to account for the role biodiversity plays in carbon storage. Here, we assess the consequences of plant biodiversity loss for carbon storage under multiple climate and land-use change scenarios. We link a macroecological model projecting changes in vascular plant richness under different scenarios with empirical data on relationships between biodiversity and biomass. We find that biodiversity declines from climate and land use change could lead to a global loss of between 7.44-103.14 PgC (global sustainability scenario) and 10.87-145.95 PgC (fossil-fueled development scenario). This indicates a self-reinforcing feedback loop, where higher levels of climate change lead to greater biodiversity loss, which in turn leads to greater carbon emissions and ultimately more climate change. Conversely, biodiversity conservation and restoration can help achieve climate change mitigation goals.

Publication Year 2024
Title Biodiversity loss reduces global terrestrial carbon storage
DOI 10.1038/s41467-024-47872-7
Authors Sarah R. Weiskopf, Forest Isbell, Maria Isabel Arce-Plata, Moreno Di Marco, Mike Harfoot, Justin A. Johnson, Susannah B. Lerman, Brian W. Miller, Toni Lyn Morelli, Akira S. Mori, Ensheng Weng, Simon Ferrier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Communications
Index ID 70254494
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Climate Adaptation Science Center