Integrating Earth Observation data and the description of land management
practices into global carbon cycle models
An International Team Sponsored by International Space Science Institute
Project Background (proposal abstract)
Terrestrial ecosystems and soils constitute a key component of the global carbon cycle. They constitute both a significant forcing of climate (historically about 30% of CO2 emissions come from direct land-use change) and a strong feedback to it. While changes in climate (e.g. shifts of climate zones) will have an impact on how the current terrestrial sink will develop in the future, a second and perhaps more decisive factor is the direct and indirect anthropogenic impact on terrestrial ecosystems.
An increasing world population and its demand for wood, food, fiber and renewable energy drive this. In addition, a large fraction of the world’s forests are already heavily managed for forestry products. Many of these land management practices modify the stored carbon pools, their turnover rates and other Greenhouse Gasses such as CH4 and N2O. Earth System Models (ESMs) are our current mathematical tools of the Earth and its climate.
Over the past decades, the number of processes represented in ESMs has considerably increased and individual process representation has matured to the extent that representing interactive carbon cycles within ESMs is a central part of IPCC scenarios and analysis. But inclusion of land-use information in these simulations has not delivered the advances hoped for because most aspects of anthropogenic effects i.e. land management, urbanization, drainage, canalization and river damming remain poorly represented in ESMs. Improving representations of land management effects in Earth System Models is hampered by a lack of suitable, harmonized global datasets of current and past land management practices and missing concepts of how to incorporate land management information into the model framework and evaluate model projections.
The input and need of EO data is obvious, making the project particularly relevant for an ISSI team. In addition, future land management scenarios need to be established in order to understand the impact of land management on the land CO2 sink, regional and global climate. This was highlighted as one of the key priorities at the Forum (January 2012): Assessing Requirements for a Carbon Model Reference Validation Framework, held in Bern at ISSI.