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Quantifying the relative importance of land cover change from climate and land-use in the representative concentration pathways

Davies-Barnard, T., Valdes, P. J., Singarayer, J. S., Wiltshire, A. J. and Jones, C. D. (2015) Quantifying the relative importance of land cover change from climate and land-use in the representative concentration pathways. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 29 (6). pp. 842-853. ISSN 1944-9224

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/2014GB004949


Climate change is projected to cause substantial alterations in vegetation distribution, but these have been given little attention in comparison to land-use in the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios. Here we assess the climate-induced land cover changes (CILCC) in the RCPs, and compare them to land-use land cover change (LULCC). To do this, we use an ensemble of simulations with and without LULCC in earth system model HadGEM2-ES for RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. We find that climate change causes an expansion poleward of vegetation that affects more land area than LULCC in all of the RCPs considered here. The terrestrial carbon changes from CILCC are also larger than for LULCC. When considering only forest, the LULCC is larger, but the CILCC is highly variable with the overall radiative forcing of the scenario. The CILCC forest increase compensates 90% of the global anthropogenic deforestation by 2100 in RCP8.5, but just 3% in RCP2.6. Overall, bigger land cover changes tend to originate from LULCC in the shorter term or lower radiative forcing scenarios, and from CILCC in the longer term and higher radiative forcing scenarios. The extent to which CILCC could compensate for LULCC raises difficult questions regarding global forest and biodiversity offsetting, especially at different timescales. This research shows the importance of considering the relative size of CILCC to LULCC, especially with regard to the ecological effects of the different RCPs.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Past Climate Change
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:40361
Uncontrolled Keywords: vegetation shifts; climate change impacts; land-use change; Representative Concentration Pathways; deforestation;
Publisher:American Geophysical Union

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