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Climate versus carbon dioxide controls on biomass burning: a model analysis of the glacial–interglacial contrast

Martin Calvo, M., Prentice, I. C. and Harrison, S. P. (2014) Climate versus carbon dioxide controls on biomass burning: a model analysis of the glacial–interglacial contrast. Biogeosciences, 11 (21). pp. 6017-6027. ISSN 1726-4170

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5194/bg-11-6017-2014


Climate controls fire regimes through its influence on the amount and types of fuel present and their dryness. CO2 concentration constrains primary production by limiting photosynthetic activity in plants. However, although fuel accumulation depends on biomass production, and hence on CO2 concentration, the quantitative relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentration and biomass burning is not well understood. Here a fire-enabled dynamic global vegetation model (the Land surface Processes and eXchanges model, LPX) is used to attribute glacial–interglacial changes in biomass burning to an increase in CO2, which would be expected to increase primary production and therefore fuel loads even in the absence of climate change, vs. climate change effects. Four general circulation models provided last glacial maximum (LGM) climate anomalies – that is, differences from the pre-industrial (PI) control climate – from the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project Phase~2, allowing the construction of four scenarios for LGM climate. Modelled carbon fluxes from biomass burning were corrected for the model's observed prediction biases in contemporary regional average values for biomes. With LGM climate and low CO2 (185 ppm) effects included, the modelled global flux at the LGM was in the range of 1.0–1.4 Pg C year-1, about a third less than that modelled for PI time. LGM climate with pre-industrial CO2 (280 ppm) yielded unrealistic results, with global biomass burning fluxes similar to or even greater than in the pre-industrial climate. It is inferred that a substantial part of the increase in biomass burning after the LGM must be attributed to the effect of increasing CO2 concentration on primary production and fuel load. Today, by analogy, both rising CO2 and global warming must be considered as risk factors for increasing biomass burning. Both effects need to be included in models to project future fire risks.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Walker Institute
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Past Climate Change
ID Code:40129
Publisher:Copernicus Publications


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