Articles | Volume 3, issue 2
Earth Syst. Dynam., 3, 233–243, 2012

Special issue: Impacts of Land-Uses and Land-Cover Changes (LULCC) on the...

Earth Syst. Dynam., 3, 233–243, 2012

Research article 27 Nov 2012

Research article | 27 Nov 2012

The influence of vegetation dynamics on anthropogenic climate change

U. Port1, V. Brovkin1, and M. Claussen1,2 U. Port et al.
  • 1Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Meteorological Institute, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. In this study, vegetation–climate and vegetation–carbon cycle interactions during anthropogenic climate change are assessed by using the Earth System Model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI ESM) that includes vegetation dynamics and an interactive carbon cycle. We assume anthropogenic CO2 emissions according to the RCP 8.5 scenario in the time period from 1850 to 2120. For the time after 2120, we assume zero emissions to evaluate the response of the stabilising Earth System by 2300.

Our results suggest that vegetation dynamics have a considerable influence on the changing global and regional climate. In the simulations, global mean tree cover extends by 2300 due to increased atmospheric CO2 concentration and global warming. Thus, land carbon uptake is higher and atmospheric CO2 concentration is lower by about 40 ppm when considering dynamic vegetation compared to the static pre-industrial vegetation cover. The reduced atmospheric CO2 concentration is equivalent to a lower global mean temperature. Moreover, biogeophysical effects of vegetation cover shifts influence the climate on a regional scale. Expanded tree cover in the northern high latitudes results in a reduced albedo and additional warming. In the Amazon region, declined tree cover causes a regional warming due to reduced evapotranspiration. As a net effect, vegetation dynamics have a slight attenuating effect on global climate change as the global climate cools by 0.22 K due to natural vegetation cover shifts in 2300.

Final-revised paper