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Changes in global terrestrial live biomass over the 21st century

Xu, Liang and Saatchi, Sassan S. and Yang, Yan and Yu, Yifan and Pongratz, Julia and Bloom, A. Anthony and Bowman, Kevin and Worden, John and Liu, Junjie and Yin, Yi and Domke, Grant and McRoberts, Ronald E. and Woodall, Christopher and Nabuurs, Gert-Jan and de-Miguel, Sergio and Keller, Michael and Harris, Nancy and Maxwell, Sean and Schimel, David (2021) Changes in global terrestrial live biomass over the 21st century. Science Advances, 7 (27). Art. No. eabe9829. ISSN 2375-2548. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abe9829.

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Live woody vegetation is the largest reservoir of biomass carbon, with its restoration considered one of the most effective natural climate solutions. However, terrestrial carbon fluxes remain the largest uncertainty in the global carbon cycle. Here, we develop spatially explicit estimates of carbon stock changes of live woody biomass from 2000 to 2019 using measurements from ground, air, and space. We show that live biomass has removed 4.9 to 5.5 PgC year⁻¹ from the atmosphere, offsetting 4.6 ± 0.1 PgC year⁻¹ of gross emissions from disturbances and adding substantially (0.23 to 0.88 PgC year⁻¹) to the global carbon stocks. Gross emissions and removals in the tropics were four times larger than temperate and boreal ecosystems combined. Although live biomass is responsible for more than 80% of gross terrestrial fluxes, soil, dead organic matter, and lateral transport may play important roles in terrestrial carbon sink.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Materials
Xu, Liang0000-0001-7400-3827
Saatchi, Sassan S.0000-0001-8524-4917
Yang, Yan0000-0002-6373-9940
Yu, Yifan0000-0001-6948-0493
Pongratz, Julia0000-0003-0372-3960
Bloom, A. Anthony0000-0002-1486-1499
Bowman, Kevin0000-0002-8659-1117
Worden, John0000-0003-0257-9549
Liu, Junjie0000-0002-7184-6594
Yin, Yi0000-0003-4750-4997
Domke, Grant0000-0003-0485-0355
McRoberts, Ronald E.0000-0001-6591-9200
Woodall, Christopher0000-0001-8076-6214
Nabuurs, Gert-Jan0000-0002-9761-074X
de-Miguel, Sergio0000-0002-9738-0657
Keller, Michael0000-0002-0253-3359
Harris, Nancy0000-0001-6661-4249
Maxwell, Sean0000-0002-0533-2659
Schimel, David0000-0003-3473-8065
Additional Information:© 2021 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC). Submitted 26 September 2020; Accepted 20 May 2021; Published 2 July 2021. We dedicate this work to the memory of S. Brown who inspired us to think of inventory of forests from ground, air, and space together. We thank the anonymous reviewers who provided constructive comments on the previous versions of the manuscript and helped us to substantially improve the results and the presentation of the study. A large number of researchers across the world generously provided forest inventory data at different scales to our team or made their data available to public. We could not perform our research without their excellent research and efforts. We are particularly indebted to the efforts by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for the timely development of the global ALOS-1 and ALOS-2 PALSAR mosaics and making them available to the scientific community. This research has been carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This study was funded by NASA Interdisciplinary Science Program (NNH16ZDA001N-IDS). M.L. and Y. Yang have been supported by the NASA Postdoctoral Program, administered by Universities Space Research Association under contract with NASA. G.-J.N. was supported by the European Union H2020-VERIFY project (776810). Author contributions: S.S.S. and L.X. conceived the research project and performed experimental analyses. S.S.S. and M.K. developed the concept of the paper. L.X., S.S.S., and Y. Yang performed data processing and interpretation of results. Y. Yu, G.D., R.E.M., C.W., G-J.N., S.d.-M., M.K., N.H., and S.M. provided support on data collection and analysis. J.P., A.A.B., K.B., J.W., J.L., Y. Yin, G.-J.N., S.d.-M., and D.S. provided expertise on modeling and assisted with manuscript revisions. All authors contributed to the manuscript and approved the final version. The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. The dataset of global live vegetation biomass carbon used in this manuscript can be accessed at
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Postdoctoral ProgramUNSPECIFIED
European Research Council (ERC)776810
Issue or Number:27
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210719-190552930
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:L. Xu, S. S. Saatchi, Y. Yang, Y. Yu, J. Pongratz, A. A. Bloom, K. Bowman, J. Worden, J. Liu, Y. Yin, G. Domke, R. E. McRoberts, C. Woodall, G.-J. Nabuurs, S. de-Miguel, M. Keller, N. Harris, S. Maxwell, D. Schimel, Changes in global terrestrial live biomass over the 21st century. Sci. Adv. 7, eabe9829 (2021)
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:109913
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Jul 2021 19:25
Last Modified:19 Jul 2021 19:25

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