Climatic Change

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 293–303

Tropical soils could dominate the short-term carbon cycle feedbacks to increased global temperatures

  • Alan R. Townsend
  • Peter M. Vitousek
  • Elisabeth A. Holland


Results of a simple model of the effects of temperature on net ecosystem production call into question the argument that the large stocks of soil carbon and greater projected warming in the boreal and tu ndra regions of the world will

lead to rapid efflux of carbon from these biomes to the atmosphere. We show that low rates of carbon turnover in these regions and a relatively greater response of net primary production to changes in temperature may lead to carbon storage over some limited range of warming. In contrast, the high rates of soil respiration found in tropical ecosystems are highly sensitive to small changes in temperature, so that despite the less pronounced warming expected in equatorial regions, tropical soils are likely to release relatively large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. Results for high-latitude biomes are highly sensitive to parameter values used, while the net efflux of carbon from the tropics appears robust.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan R. Townsend
    • 1
  • Peter M. Vitousek
    • 1
  • Elisabeth A. Holland
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. Biological SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordU.S.A.
  2. 2.Atmospheric Chemistry DivisionNational Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderU.S.A.

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