Evidence and attribution of the enhanced land carbon sink

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Climate change has been partially mitigated by an increasing net land carbon sink in the terrestrial biosphere; understanding the processes that drive this sink is thus essential for protecting, managing and projecting this important ecosystem service. In this Review, we examine evidence for an enhanced land carbon sink and attribute the observed response to drivers and processes. This sink has doubled from 1.2 ± 0.5 PgC yr−1 in the 1960s to 3.1 ± 0.6 PgC yr−1 in the 2010s. This trend results largely from carbon dioxide fertilization increasing photosynthesis (driving an increase in the annual land carbon sink of >2 PgC globally since 1900), mainly in tropical forest regions, and elevated temperatures reducing cold limitation, mainly at higher latitudes. Continued long-term land carbon sequestration is possible through the end of this century under multiple emissions scenarios, especially if nature-based climate solutions and appropriate ecosystem management are used. A new generation of globally distributed field experiments is needed to improve understanding of future carbon sink potential by measuring belowground carbon release, the response to carbon dioxide enrichment, and long-term shifts in carbon allocation and turnover. © 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

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Nature Reviews Earth and Environment

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