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Fire decline in dry tropical ecosystems enhances decadal land carbon sink

Yin, Y., A. Bloom, J. Worden, S. Saatchi, Y. Yang, M. Williams, J. Liu, Z. Jiang, H. Worden, K. Bowman, C. Frankenberg, and D. Schimel (2020), Fire decline in dry tropical ecosystems enhances decadal land carbon sink, Nature, doi:10.1038/s41467-020-15852-2.

The terrestrial carbon sink has significantly increased in the past decades, but the underlying mechanisms are still unclear. The current synthesis of process-based estimates of land and ocean sinks requires an additional sink of 0.6 PgC yrin the last decade to explain the observed airborne fraction. A concurrent global fire decline was observed in association with tropical agriculture expansion and landscape fragmentation. Here we show that a decline of 0.2 ± 0.1 PgC yrin fire emissions during 20082014 relative to 20012007 also induced an additional carbon sink enhancement of 0.4 ± 0.2 PgC yrattributable to carbon cycle feedbacks, amounting to a combined sink increase comparable to the 0.6 PgC yrbudget imbalance. Our results suggest that the indirect effects of fire, in addition to the direct emissions, is an overlooked mechanism for explaining decadal-scale changes in the land carbon sink and highlight the importance of fire management in climate mitigation.

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