Nitrogen cycle impacts on CO2 fertilisation and climate forcing of land carbon stores

Huntingford, Chris ORCID:; Burke, Eleanor J.; Jones, Chris D.; Jeffers, Elizabeth S.; Wiltshire, Andrew J.. 2022 Nitrogen cycle impacts on CO2 fertilisation and climate forcing of land carbon stores. Environmental Research Letters, 17 (4), 044072. 12, pp.

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Anthropogenic fossil fuel burning increases atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, which is adjusting the climate system. The direct impact of rising CO2 levels and climate feedback alters the terrestrial carbon stores. Land stores are presently increasing, offsetting a substantial fraction of CO2 emissions. Less understood is how this human-induced carbon cycle perturbation interacts with other terrestrial biogeochemical cycles. These connections require quantification, as they may eventually suppress land fertilisation, and so fewer emissions are allowed to follow any prescribed future global warming pathway. Using the new Joint UK Land Environment Simulator-CN large-scale land model, which contributed to Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 as the land component of the UK Earth System Model v1 climate model, we focus on how the introduction of the simulated terrestrial nitrogen (N) cycle modulates the expected evolution of vegetation and soil carbon pools. We find that the N-cycle suppresses, by approximately one-third, any future gains by the global soil pool when compared to calculations without that cycle. There is also a decrease in the vegetation carbon gain, although this is much smaller. Factorial simulations illustrate that N suppression tracks direct CO2 rise rather than climate change. The finding that this CO2-related effect predominantly influences soil carbon rather than vegetation carbon, we explain by different balances between changing carbon uptake levels and residence times. Finally, we discuss how this new generation of land models may gain further from emerging point knowledge held by the detailed ecological modelling community.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: carbon cycle, terrestrial nitrogen cycle, dynamical global vegetation model, emissions offset, global geochemical cycles, climate change
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 19 Apr 2022 14:38 +0 (UTC)

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