Process-oriented analysis of dominant sources of uncertainty in the land carbon sink

Michael O’Sullivan, Pierre Friedlingstein, Stephen Sitch, Peter Anthoni, Almut Arneth, Vivek K. Arora, Vladislav Bastrikov, Christine Delire, Daniel S. Goll, Atul Jain, Etsushi Kato, Daniel Kennedy, Jürgen Knauer, Sebastian Lienert, Danica Lombardozzi, Patrick C. McGuire, Joe R. Melton, Julia E.M.S. Nabel, Julia Pongratz, Benjamin PoulterRoland Séférian, Hanqin Tian, Nicolas Vuichard, Anthony P. Walker, Wenping Yuan, Xu Yue, Sönke Zaehle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The observed global net land carbon sink is captured by current land models. All models agree that atmospheric CO2 and nitrogen deposition driven gains in carbon stocks are partially offset by climate and land-use and land-cover change (LULCC) losses. However, there is a lack of consensus in the partitioning of the sink between vegetation and soil, where models do not even agree on the direction of change in carbon stocks over the past 60 years. This uncertainty is driven by plant productivity, allocation, and turnover response to atmospheric CO2 (and to a smaller extent to LULCC), and the response of soil to LULCC (and to a lesser extent climate). Overall, differences in turnover explain ~70% of model spread in both vegetation and soil carbon changes. Further analysis of internal plant and soil (individual pools) cycling is needed to reduce uncertainty in the controlling processes behind the global land carbon sink.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4781
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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