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Moving beyond land cover change in climate change assessments

Are changes in land management, such as changes in forestry or agricultural intensity, important drivers of regional and global climate change? A new paper in Nature Climate Change, led by Sebastiaan Luyssaert, suggests that both conversions among broad land use classes and changes in land management within these classes should be considered when assessing the climate impact of land use change. Using flux tower measurements and remote sensing analyses of pairs of sites with and without conversions or management showed that both types of land use changes results in significant changes in temperature and albedo.
 

Land management and land-cover change have impacts of similar magnitude on surface temperature

 

Sebastiaan Luyssaert, Mathilde Jammet, Paul C. Stoy, Stephan Estel, Julia Pongratz, Eric Ceschia, Galina Churkina, Axel Don, KarlHeinz Erb, Morgan Ferlicoq, Bert Gielen, Thomas Grünwald, Richard A. Houghton, Katja Klumpp, Alexander Knohl, Thomas Kolb, Tobias Kuemmerle, Tuomas Laurila, Annalea Lohila, Denis Loustau, Matthew J. McGrath, Patrick Meyfroidt, Eddy J. Moors, Kim Naudts, Kim Novick, Juliane Otto, Kim Pilegaard, Casimiro A. Pio, Serge Rambal, Corinna Rebmann, James Ryder, Andrew E. Suyker, Andrej Varlagin, Martin Wattenbach, and A. Johannes Dolman

 

Abstract

Anthropogenic changes to land cover (LCC) remain common, but continuing land scarcity promotes the widespread intensification of land management changes (LMC) to better satisfy societal demand for food, fibre, fuel and shelter. The biophysical effects of LCC on surface climate are largely understood, particularly for the boreal and tropical zones, but fewer studies have investigated the biophysical consequences of LMC; that is, anthropogenic modification without a change in land cover type. Harmonized analysis of ground measurements and remote sensing observations of both LCC and LMC revealed that, in the temperate zone, potential surface cooling from increased albedo is typically offset by warming from decreased sensible heat fluxes, with the net effect being a warming of the surface. Temperature changes from LMC and LCC were of the same magnitude, and averaged 2 K at the vegetation surface and were estimated at 1.7 K in the planetary boundary layer. Given the spatial extent of land management (42–58% of the land surface) this calls for increasing the eorts to integrate land management in Earth System Science to better take into account the human impact on the climate.

 

Reference

Luyssaert, S., Jammet, M., Stoy, P.C., Estel, S., Pongratz, J., Ceschia, E., Churkina, G.,  Don, A., Erb, KH. Ferlicoq, M., Gielen, B., Grünwald, T., Houghton, R.A., Klumpp, K., Knohl, A., Kolb, T., Kuemmerle, T., Laurila, T., Lohila, A., Loustau, D., Meyfroidt, P., Moors, E.J., Novick, K., Otto, J., Pilegaard, K., Pio, C.A., Rambal, S., Rebmann, C., Ryder, J., Suyker, A. E., Varlagin, A., Wattenbach, M., and Dolman, A.J. (2014):  Land management and land-cover change have impacts of similar magnitude on surface temperature . Nature Climate Change, 4, 389–393.

http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n5/full/nclimate2196.html