A global assessment of the carbon cycle and temperature responses to major changes in future fire regime

Abstract

Changes in the current fire regime would directly affect carbon cycling, land–atmosphere exchanges, and atmospheric composition, and could therefore modulate the ongoing climate warming. We used a coupled climate–carbon model to quantify the effect of major changes in non-deforestation fires on the global carbon cycle and temperature, from 2015 to 2300. When considering only CO2 fire emissions, the impacts from changes in fire frequency were limited for the global carbon cycle, and almost negligible for the global atmospheric surface temperature. The net fire emissions were only a fraction of the CO2 directly emitted during combustion due to vegetation regrowth and climate–CO2 feedbacks, and the albedo increases caused by changes in vegetation cover countered the effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on global temperature. When employing a simplified approach based on global-mean radiative forcings in order to estimate the impact of non-CO2 fire emissions, the effect of increased fire frequency on global temperature depended critically on the uncertain net aerosol forcing. Despite this major uncertainty, our results overall do not support the hypothesis of a strong positive climate–fire feedback for the coming centuries.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Andreae MO, Merlet P (2001) Emission of trace gases and aerosols from biomass burning. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 15:955–966

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Balshi MS, McGuire AD, Duffy P, Flannigan MD, Kicklighter DW, Melillo J (2009) Vulnerability of carbon storage in North American boreal forests to wildfires during the 21st century. Global Change Biol 15:1491–1510

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bond WJ, Woodward FI, Midgley GF (2005) The global distribution of ecosystems in a world without fire. New Phytol 165:525–537

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Boucher O, Randall D, Artaxo P, Bretherton C, Feingold G, Forster P, Kerminen VM, Kondo Y, Liao H, Lohmann U, Rasch P, Satheesh SK, Sherwood S, Stevens B, Zhang XY (2013). In: Stocker TF et al. (eds) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 571–658

  5. Bowman DMJS, Balch JK, Artaxo P, Bond WJ, Carlson JM, Cochrane MA, D’Antonio CM, DeFries RS, Doyle JC, Harrison SP, Johnston FH, Keeley JE, Krawchuk MA, Kull CA, Marston JB, Moritz MA, Prentice IC, Roos CI, Scott AC, Swetnam TW, van der Werf GR, Pyne SJ (2009) Fire in the Earth system. Science 324:481–484

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bowman DMJS, O’Brien JA, Goldammer JG (2013) Pyrogeography and the global quest for sustainable fire management. Annu Rev Environ Resour 38:57–80

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cox PM (2001) Description of the “TRIFFID” Dynamic Global Vegetation Model. Hadley Centre technical note 24, p 16

  8. Eby M, Zickfeld K, Montenegro A, Archer D, Meissner KJ, Weaver AJ (2009) Lifetime of anthropogenic climate change: Millennial time scales of potential CO2 and surface temperature perturbations. J Clim 22:2501–2511

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ewen TL, Weaver AJ, Eby M (2004) Sensitivity of the inorganic ocean carbon cycle to future climate warming in the UVic coupled model. Atmosphere-Ocean 42:23–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Field CB, Lobell DB, Peters HA, Chiariello NR (2007) Feedbacks of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change. Annu Rev Environ Resour 32:1–29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Giglio L, Randerson JT, van der Werf GR (2013) Analysis of daily, monthly, and annual burned area using the fourth-generation global fire emissions database (GFED4). J Geophys Res 118:317–328

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hansen J, Sato M, Ruedy R, Nazarenko L, Lacis A, Schmidt GA, Russell G, Aleinov I, Bauer M, Bauer S, Bell N, Cairns B, Canuto V, Chandler M, Cheng Y, Del Genio A, Faluvegi G, Fleming E, Friend A, Hall T, Jackman C, Kelley M, Kiang N, Koch D, Lean J, Lerner J, Lo K, Menon S, Miller R, Minnis P, Novakov T, Oinas V, Perlwitz J, Perlwitz J, Rind D, Romanou A, Shindell D, Stone P, Sun S, Tausnev N, Thresher D, Wielicki B, Wong T, Yao M, Zhang S (2005) Efficacy of climate forcings. J Geophys Res 110:D18104

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jacobson MZ (2004) The short-term cooling but long-term global warming due to biomass burning. J Clim 17:2909–2926

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Jacobson MZ (2014) Effect of biomass burning on climate, accounting for heat and moisture fluxes, black and brown carbon, and cloud absorption effects. J Geophys Res Atmos 119:8980–9002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Jones A, Haywood JM, Boucher O (2007) Aerosol forcing, climate response and climate sensitivity in the Hadley Centre climate model. J Geophys Res 112:D20211

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Joos F, Roth R, Fuglestvedt JS, Peters GP, Enting IG, von Bloh W, Brovkin V, Burke EJ, Eby M, Edwards NR, Friedrich T, Frölicher TL, Halloran PR, Holden PB, Jones C, Kleinen T, Mackenzie FT, Matsumoto K, Meinshausen M, Plattner GK, Reisinger A, Segschneider J, Shaffer G, Steinacher M, Strassmann K, Tanaka K, Timmermann A, Weaver AJ (2013) Carbon dioxide and climate impulse response functions for the computation of greenhouse gas metrics: a multi-model analysis. Atmos Chem Phys 13:2793–2825

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kloster S, Mahowald NM, Randerson JT, Lawrence PJ (2012) The impacts of climate, land use, and demography on fires during the 21st century simulated by CLM-CN. Biogeosciences 9:509–525

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kurz WA, Apps MJ, Stocks BJ, Volney WJA (1995) In: Woodwell GM, Mackenzie FT (eds) Biotic Feedbacks in the Global Climatic System: Will the Warming Feed the Warming? Oxford University Press, New York, pp 119–133

  19. Li F, Bond-Lamberty B, Levis S (2014) Quantifying the role of fire in the Earth system – Part 2: Impact on the net carbon balance of global terrestrial ecosystems for the 20th century. Biogeosciences 11 :1345–1360

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Matthews HD (2007) Implications of CO2 fertilization for future climate change in a coupled climate–carbon model. Global Change Biol 13:1068–1078

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Matthews HD, Weaver AJ, Meissner KJ, Gillett NP, Eby M (2004) Natural and anthropogenic climate change: incorporating historical land cover change, vegetation dynamics and the global carbon cycle. Clim Dyn 22:461–479

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Meissner KJ, Weaver AJ, Matthews HD, Cox PM (2003) The role of land surface dynamics in glacial inception: a study with the UVic Earth System Model. Clim Dyn 21:515–537

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Mieville A, Granier C, Liousse C, Guillaume B, Mouillot F, Lamarque JF, Grégoire JM, Pétron G (2010) Emissions of gases and particles from biomass burning during the 20th century using satellite data and an historical reconstruction. Atmos Environ 44:1469–1477

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Moritz MA, Parisien MA, Batllori E, Krawchuk MA, Van Dorn J, Ganz DJ, Hayhoe K (2012) Climate change and disruption to global fire activity. Ecosphere 3:49

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Myhre G, Shindell D, Bréon FM, Collins W, J F, Huang J, Koch D, Lamarque JF, Lee D, Mendoza B, Nakajima T, Robock A, Stephens G, Takemura T, Zhang H (2013) In: Stocker TF et al. (eds) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 659–740

  26. O’Halloran TL, Law BE, Goulden ML, Wang Z, Barr JG, Schaaf C, Brown M, Fuentes JD, Göckede M, Black A, Engel V (2012) Radiative forcing of natural forest disturbances. Global Change Biol 18:555–565

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Pechony O, Shindell DT (2010) Driving forces of global wildfires over the past millennium and the forthcoming century. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:19167–19170

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Quaas J, Ming Y, Menon S, Takemura T, Wang M, Penner JE, Gettelman A, Lohmann U, Bellouin N, Boucher O, Sayer AM, Thomas GE, McComiskey A, Feingold G, Hoose C, Kristjánsson JE, Liu X, Balkanski Y, Donner LJ, Ginoux PA, Stier P, Feichter J, Sednev I, Bauer SE, Koch D, Grainger RG, Kirkevåg A, Iversen T, Seland O, Easter R, Ghan SJ, Rasch PJ, Morrison H, Lamarque JF, Iacono MJ, Kinne S, Schulz M (2009) Aerosol indirect effects – general circulation model intercomparison and evaluation with satellite data. Atmos Chem Phys 9:8697–8717

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Randerson JT, Liu H, Flanner MG, Chambers SD, Jin Y, Hess PG, Pfister G, Mack MC, Treseder KK, Welp LR, Chapin FS, Harden JW, Goulden ML, Lyons E, Neff JC, Schuur EAG, Zender CS (2006) The impact of boreal forest fire on climate warming. Science 314:1130–1132

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Running SW (2008) Ecosystem disturbance, carbon, and climate. Science 321:652–653

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Schmittner A, Oschlies A, Matthews HD, Galbraith ED (2008) Future changes in climate, ocean circulation, ecosystems, and biogeochemical cycling simulated for a business-as-usual CO2 emission scenario until year 4000 AD. Global Biogeochem Cycles 22:GB1013

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Scholze M, Knorr W, Arnell NW, Prentice IC (2006) A climate-change risk analysis for world ecosystems. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103:13116–13120

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Schuur EAG, Bockheim J, Canadell JG, Euskirchen E, Field CB, Goryachkin SV, Hagemann S, Kuhry P, Lafleur PM, Lee H, Mazhitova G, Nelson FE, Rinke A, Romanovsky VE, Shiklomanov N, Tarnocai C, Venevsky S, Vogel JG, Zimov SA (2008) Vulnerability of permafrost carbon to climate change: Implications for the global carbon cycle. BioScience 58:701–714

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Seiler W, Crutzen PJ (1980) Estimates of gross and net fluxes of carbon between the biosphere and the atmosphere from biomass burning. Clim Change 2:207–247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Spracklen DV, Rap A (2013) Natural aerosol-climate feedbacks suppressed by anthropogenic aerosol. Geophys Res Lett 40:5316–5319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Ten Hoeve JE, Jacobson MZ, Remer LA (2012) Comparing results from a physical model with satellite and in situ observations to determine whether biomass burning aerosols over the Amazon brighten or burn off clouds. J Geophys Res 117:D08203

    Google Scholar 

  37. Tosca MG, Randerson JT, Zender CS (2013) Global impact of smoke aerosols from landscape fires on climate and the Hadley circulation. Atmos Chem Phys 13:5227–5241

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Turetsky MR, Benscoter B, Page S, Rein G, van der Werf GR, Watts A (2015) Global vulnerability of peatlands to fire and carbon loss. Nat Geosci 8:11–14

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Unger N, Bond TC, Wang JS, Koch DM, Menon S, Shindell DT, Bauer S (2010) Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107:3382–3387

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. van der Werf GR, Randerson JT, Collatz GJ, Giglio L (2003) Carbon emissions from fires in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. Global Change Biol 9:547–562

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. van der Werf GR, Randerson JT, Giglio L, Collatz GJ, Mu M, Kasibhatla PS, Morton DC, DeFries RS, Jin Y, van Leeuwen TT (2010) Global fire emissions and the contribution of deforestation, savanna, forest, agricultural, and peat fires (1997–2009). Atmos Chem Phys 10:11707–11735

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. van Vuuren DP, Edmonds J, Kainuma M, Riahi K, Thomson A, Hibbard K, Hurtt GC, Kram T, Krey V, Lamarque JF, Masui T, Meinshausen M, Nakicenovic N, Smith SJ, Rose SK (2011) The representative concentration pathways: an overview. Clim Change 109:5–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Ward DS, Kloster S, Mahowald NM, Rogers BM, Randerson JT, Hess PG (2012) The changing radiative forcing of fires: global model estimates for past, present and future. Atmos Chem Phys 12:10857–10886

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Weaver AJ, Eby M, Wiebe EC, Bitz CM, Duffy PB, Ewen TL, Fanning AF, Holland MM, MacFadyen A, Matthews HD, Meissner KJ, Saenko O, Schmittner A, Wang H, Yoshimori M (2001) The UVic earth system climate model: Model description, climatology, and applications to past, present and future climates. Atmosphere-Ocean 39:361–428

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Zickfeld K, Eby M, Weaver AJ, Alexander K, Crespin E, Edwards NR, Eliseev AV, Feulner G, Fichefet T, Forest CE, Friedlingstein P, Goosse H, Holden PB, Joos F, Kawamiya M, Kicklighter D, Kienert H, Matsumoto K, Mokhov II, Monier E, Olsen SM, Pedersen JOP, Perrette M, Philippon-Berthier G, Ridgwell A, Schlosser A, Schneider Von Deimling T, Shaffer G, Sokolov A, Spahni R, Steinacher M, Tachiiri K, Tokos KS, Yoshimori M, Zeng N, Zhao F (2013) Long-term climate change commitment and reversibility: An EMIC intercomparison. J Clim 26:5782–5809

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank M. Eby for providing us with forcing input files, D. Plouffe for helping us create the burned area input file, and J.-F. Rajotte for comments on a previous version of the manuscript. We also thank the five reviewers and the Deputy Editor for their helpful suggestions. Funding was provided by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (J.-S.L.).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jean-Sébastien Landry.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(PDF 383 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Landry, J., Matthews, H.D. & Ramankutty, N. A global assessment of the carbon cycle and temperature responses to major changes in future fire regime. Climatic Change 133, 179–192 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1461-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Burned Area
  • Fire Regime
  • Representative Concentration Pathway
  • Fire Scenario
  • Fire Emission