Intensive land-management leaves Europe without carbon sinks

Away from Climategate and back to science, here’s something interesting fingering land use as an issue. This is from the Max Planck Society.

A new calculation of Europe’s greenhouse gas balance shows that emissions of methane and nitrous oxide tip the balance and eliminate Europe’s terrestrial sink of greenhouse-gases.

Fig.1: In order to compute whether European landscapes store or release greenhouse gases, climatologists have for the first time also considered methane and nitrogen oxide emissions from livestock farming and intensive agriculture. The bottom line is that forests, grasslands and agriculture fields, particularly in central Europe, freely release greenhouse gas (in carbon dioxide equivalents / red colouring in diagram). In this way they balance out the effect which Russian forests have as a source of carbon dioxide storage (blue colouring), almost completely. Click for larger image.


Of all global carbon dioxide emissions, less than half accumulate in the atmosphere where it contributes to global warming. The remainder is hidden away in oceans and terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, grasslands and peat-lands. Stimulating this “free service” of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is considered one of the main, immediately available ways of reducing climate change. However, new greenhouse gas bookkeeping has revealed that for the European continent this service isn’t free after all. These findings are presented in the most recent edition of Nature Geoscience (Advanced Online Publication, November 22, 2009).