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Publication Date
23 January 2018

Quantifying the Effects of Historical Land Cover Conversion Uncertainty on Global Carbon and Climate Estimates



Previous studies have examined land use change as a driver of global change, but the translation of land use change into land cover conversion has been largely unconstrained. Here we quantify the effects of land cover conversion uncertainty on the global carbon and climate system using the integrated Earth System Model. Our experiments use identical land use change data and vary land cover conversions to quantify associated uncertainty in carbon and climate estimates. Land cover conversion uncertainty is large, constitutes a 5 ppmv range in estimated atmospheric CO2 in 2004, and generates carbon uncertainty that is equivalent to 80% of the net effects of CO2 and climate and 124% of the effects of nitrogen deposition during 1850–2004. Additionally, land cover uncertainty generates differences in local surface temperature of over 1°C. We conclude that future studies addressing land use, carbon, and climate need to constrain and reduce land cover conversion uncertainties.

“Quantifying The Effects Of Historical Land Cover Conversion Uncertainty On Global Carbon And Climate Estimates”. 2018. Geophysical Research Letters. doi:10.1002/2017gl075124.
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