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Title: Quantifying the role of fire in the Earth system - Part 2: Impact on the net carbon balance of global terrestrial ecosystems for the 20th century

Fire is the primary terrestrial ecosystem disturbance agent on a global scale. It affects carbon balance of global terrestrial ecosystems by emitting carbon to atmosphere directly and immediately from biomass burning (i.e., fire direct effect), and by changing net ecosystem productivity and land-use carbon loss in post-fire regions due to biomass burning and fire-induced vegetation mortality (i.e., fire indirect effect). Here, we provide the first quantitative assessment about the impact of fire on the net carbon balance of global terrestrial ecosystems for the 20th century, and investigate the roles of fire direct and indirect effects. This study is done by quantifying the difference between the 20th century fire-on and fire-off simulations with NCAR community land model CLM4.5 as the model platform. Results show that fire decreases net carbon gain of the global terrestrial ecosystems by 1.0 Pg C yr-1 average across the 20th century, as a results of fire direct effect (1.9 Pg C yr-1) partly offset by indirect effect (-0.9 Pg C yr-1). Fire generally decreases the average carbon gains of terrestrial ecosystems in post-fire regions, which are significant over tropical savannas and part of forests in North America and the east of Asia. The general decrease of carbonmore » gains in post-fire regions is because fire direct and indirect effects have similar spatial patterns and the former (to decrease carbon gain) is generally stronger. Moreover, the effect of fire on net carbon balance significantly declines prior to ~1970 with trend of 8 Tg C yr-1 due to increasing fire indirect effect and increases afterward with trend of 18 Tg C yr-1 due to increasing fire direct effect.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Biogeosciences, 11(5):1345-1360
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
climate modeling; carbon cycle; fire; disturbance