Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Sources and Sinks of Atmospheric CO2

JA Taylor and J Lloyd

Australian Journal of Botany 40(5) 407 - 418
Published: 1992


The biosphere plays an important role in determining the sources, sinks, levels and rates of change of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Significant uncertainties remain in estimates of the fluxes of CO2 from biomass burning and deforestation, and uptake and storage of CO2 by the biosphere arising from increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Calculation of probable rates of carbon sequestration for the major ecosystem complexes and global 3-D tracer transport model runs indicate the possibility that a significant net CO2 uptake (> 1 Pg C yr-1), a CO2 'fertilisation effect', may be occurring in tropical rainforests, effectively accounting for much of the 'missing sink'. This sink may currently balance much of the CO2 added to the atmosphere from deforestation and biomass burning. Interestingly, CO2 released from biomass burning may itself be playing an important role in enhanced carbon storage by tropical rainforests. This has important implications for predicting future CO2 concentrations. If tropical rainforest destruction continues then much of the CO2 stored as a result of the CO2 'fertilisation effect' will be rereleased to the atmosphere and much of the 'missing sink' will disappear. These effects have not been considered in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) projections of future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Predictions which take account of the combined effects of deforestation, the return of carbon previously stored through the CO2 'fertilisation effect' and the loss of a large proportion of the 'missing sink' as a result of deforestation, would result in much higher predicted concentrations and rates of increase of atmospheric CO2 and, as a consequence, accelerated rates of climate change.

© CSIRO 1992

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