Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 173-182

First online:

Greenhouse gas budget for terrestrial ecosystems in China

  • ZuCong CaiAffiliated withState Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences Email author 

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Terrestrial ecosystems may act as a source or a sink for the atmospheric greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), depending on land use and management. This paper reviews the literature on carbon, CH4, and N2O fluxes from terrestrial ecosystems in China, and analyzes its national greenhouse gas budget. Carbon storage in biomass and soils in Chinese terrestrial ecosystems decreased in the past 300 years, due to deforestation and expansion of cultivated land, and reached a minimum in the late 1970s. Since then, carbon storage has increased at an estimated rate of 0.19 to 0.26 Pg C yr−1, mainly owing to reforestation and afforestation. CH4 emission from natural wetlands decreased from 6.65 Tg CH4 yr−1 in 1990 to 5.71 Tg CH4 yr−1 in 2000 owing to the decrease in wetland area. CH4 emission from flooded rice fields was 7.41 Tg CH4 yr−1. At the same time, aerobic soils took up atmospheric CH4 at a rate of 2.56 Tg CH4 yr−1. Nitrous oxide emission from forestlands, grasslands, and farmlands was positively correlated with precipitation at a national scale, and the emission rate was positively correlated with the CH4 uptake rate of forestlands and grasslands (P<0.01). Natural N2O sources were estimated to be 419 Gg N yr−1 and anthropogenic sources (from farmlands) to be 292 to 476.3 Gg N yr−1, with a mean of 372.6 Gg N yr−1. The integrated budget of greenhouse gasses indicates that Chinese terrestrial ecosystems act as a small net sink for global warming potential (GWP), ranging from 0.04 to 0.32 Pg CO2-eq yr−1, in a striking contrast to terrestrial ecosystems globally, which are a source of 2.75 to 6.78 Pg CO2-eq yr−1. The ratios of anthropogenic to natural sources of CH4 and N2O are much larger in Chinese terrestrial ecosystems than they are in global averages, reflecting greater human disturbance of terrestrial ecosystems in China.


terrestrial ecosystems carbon dioxide methane nitrous oxide