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Chapter G2 Carbon emissions from land use and land-cover change

Author(s): R. A. Houghton | G. R. van der Werf | R. S. DeFries | M. C. Hansen | J. I. House | C. Le Quéré | J. Pongratz | N. Ramankutty

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 835;
Date: 2012;
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The net flux of carbon from land use and land-cover change (LULCC) is significant in the global carbon budget but uncertain, not only because of uncertainties in rates of deforestation and forestation, but also because of uncertainties in the carbon density of the lands actually undergoing change. Furthermore, there are differences in approaches used to determine the flux that introduce variability into estimates in ways that are difficult to evaluate, and there are forms of management not considered in many of the analyses. Thirteen recent estimates of net carbon emissions from LULCC are summarized here. All analyses consider changes in the area of agricultural lands (croplands and pastures). Some consider, also, forest management (wood harvest, shifting cultivation). None of them includes the emissions from the degradation of tropical peatlands. The net flux of carbon from LULCC is not the same as "emissions from deforestation", although the terms are used interchangeably in the literature. Means and standard deviations for annual emissions are 1.14 ± 0.23 and 1.13 ± 0.23 Pg C yr−1 (1 Pg = 1015 g carbon) for the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. Four studies also consider the period 2000–2009, and the mean and standard deviations for these four are 1.14 ± 0.39, 1.17 ± 0.32, and 1.10 ± 0.11 Pg C yr−1 for the three decades. For the period 1990–2009 the mean global emissions from LULCC are 1.14 ± 0.18 Pg C yr−1. The errors are smaller than previously estimated, as they do not represent the range of error around each result, but rather the standard deviation across the mean of the 13 estimates. Errors that result from data uncertainty and an incomplete understanding of all the processes affecting the net flux of carbon from LULCC have not been systematically evaluated but are likely to be on the order of ±0.5 Pg C yr−1.
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