Articles | Volume 11, issue 15
Research article
08 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 08 Aug 2014

Terrestrial ecosystems response to future changes in climate and atmospheric CO2 concentration

V. K. Arora and G. J. Boer

Abstract. The response of the terrestrial carbon cycle to future changes in climate and atmospheric CO2 is assessed by analysing simulation results for the 2006–2100 period made with the second generation Canadian Earth system model (CanESM2) for the RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 climate change scenarios. Our interest is in the extent to which global terrestrial carbon pools and sinks, in particular those of the Amazonian region, are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. CanESM2 results indicate that land remains an overall sink of atmospheric carbon for the 2006–2100 period. The net carbon uptake by land in response to changes in climate and atmospheric CO2 is close to 20, 80 and 140 Pg C for the RCP 2.6, 4.5 and 8.5 scenarios, respectively. The latitudinal structure of future atmosphere–land CO2 flux remains similar to that observed for the historical period with northern mid- to high-latitude regions gaining carbon from the atmosphere while the tropics remain either carbon neutral or a modest source of atmospheric carbon depending on scenario. These changes occur in conjunction with simulated precipitation and soil moisture increases over northern mid- and high-latitude land regions and precipitation and soil moisture decreases over the South American continent in all scenarios. Compared to other regions of the globe, which are either carbon sinks or near neutral, the Amazonian region is simulated to be a net source of carbon during the 21st century. Moreover, and unexpectedly, the rate of carbon loss to the atmosphere from the Amazonian region is largely independent of the differences between the three scenarios considered.

Final-revised paper