Reconciling estimates of the contemporary North American carbon balance among terrestrial biosphere models, atmospheric inversions, and a new approach for estimating net ecosystem exchange from inventory-based data Public Deposited

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  • We develop an approach for estimating net ecosystem exchange (NEE) using inventory-based information over North America (NA) for a recent 7-year period (ca. 2000–2006). The approach notably retains information on the spatial distribution of NEE, or the vertical exchange between land and atmosphere of all non-fossil fuel sources and sinks of CO₂, while accounting for lateral transfers of forest and crop products as well as their eventual emissions. The total NEE estimate of a −327 ± 252 TgC yr⁻¹ sink for NA was driven primarily by CO₂ uptake in the Forest Lands sector (−248 TgC yr⁻¹), largely in the Northwest and Southeast regions of the US, and in the Crop Lands sector (−297 TgC yr⁻¹), predominantly in the Midwest US states. These sinks are counteracted by the carbon source estimated for the Other Lands sector (+218 TgC yr⁻¹), where much of the forest and crop products are assumed to be returned to the atmosphere (through livestock and human consumption). The ecosystems of Mexico are estimated to be a small net source (+18 TgC yr⁻¹) due to land use change between 1993 and 2002. We compare these inventory-based estimates with results from a suite of terrestrial biosphere and atmospheric inversion models, where the mean continental-scale NEE estimate for each ensemble is −511 TgC yr⁻¹ and −931 TgC yr⁻¹, respectively. In the modeling approaches, all sectors, including Other Lands, were generally estimated to be a carbon sink, driven in part by assumed CO₂ fertilization and/or lack of consideration of carbon sources from disturbances and product emissions. Additional fluxes not measured by the inventories, although highly uncertain, could add an additional −239 TgC yr⁻¹ to the inventory-based NA sink estimate, thus suggesting some convergence with the modeling approaches.
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  • Hayes, D. J., Turner, D. P., Stinson, G., McGuire, A. D., Wei, Y., West, T. O., Heath, L. S., de Jong, B., McConkey, B. G., Birdsey, R. A., Kurz, W. A., Jacobson, A. R., Huntzinger, D. N., Pan, Y., Post, W. M. and Cook, R. B. (2012), Reconciling estimates of the contemporary North American carbon balance among terrestrial biosphere models, atmospheric inversions, and a new approach for estimating net ecosystem exchange from inventory-based data. Global Change Biology, 18: 1282–1299. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02627.x
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