Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 365–383

The transient response of vegetation to climate change: A potential source of CO2 to the atmosphere


  • George A. King
    • ManTech Environmental Technology Inc.
  • Ronald P. Neilson
    • U.S. EPA Environmental Research LaboratoryOregon State University
Part IV Modeling Carbon Fluxes

DOI: 10.1007/BF00477111

Cite this article as:
King, G.A. & Neilson, R.P. Water Air Soil Pollut (1992) 64: 365. doi:10.1007/BF00477111


Global climate change as currently simulated could result in the broad-scale redistribution of vegetation across the planet. Vegetation change could occur through drought-induced dieback and fire. The direct combustion of vegetation and the decay of dead biomass could result in a release of carbon from the biosphere to the atmosphere over a 50- to 150-year time frame. A simple model that tracks dieback and regrowth of extra-tropical forests is used to estimate the possible magnitude of this carbon pulse to the atmosphere. Depending on the climate scenario and model assumptions, the carbon pulse could range from 0 to 3 Gt of C yr−1. The wide range of pulse estimates is a function of uncertainties in the rate of future vegetation change and in the values of key model parameters.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992