Large Chinese land carbon sink estimated from atmospheric carbon dioxide data

Jing Wang, Liang Feng, Paul Palmer, Yi Lu, Shuangxi Fang, Hartmut Bösch, Christopher W. O'Dell, Xiaoping Tang, Dongxu Yang, Lixin Liu, ChaoZong Xia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Limiting the rise in global mean temperatures relies on reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and on the removal of CO2 by land carbon sinks. China is currently the single largest emitter of CO2, responsible for approximately 27 per cent (2.67 petagrams of carbon per year) of global fossil fuel emissions in 20171. Understanding of Chinese land biosphere fluxes has been hampered by sparse data coverage2,3,4, which has resulted in a wide range of a posteriori estimates of flux. Here we present recently available data on the atmospheric mole fraction of CO2, measured from six sites across China during 2009 to 2016. Using these data, we estimate a mean Chinese land biosphere sink of −1.11 ± 0.38 petagrams of carbon per year during 2010 to 2016, equivalent to about 45 per cent of our estimate of annual Chinese anthropogenic emissions over that period. Our estimate reflects a previously underestimated land carbon sink over southwest China (Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces) throughout the year, and over northeast China (especially Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces) during summer months. These provinces have established a pattern of rapid afforestation of progressively larger regions5,6, with provincial forest areas increasing by between 0.04 million and 0.44 million hectares per year over the past 10 to 15 years. These large-scale changes reflect the expansion of fast-growing plantation forests that contribute to timber exports and the domestic production of paper7. Space-borne observations of vegetation greenness show a large increase with time over this study period, supporting the timing and increase in the land carbon sink over these afforestation regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-723
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020


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