Feedbacks of Terrestrial Ecosystems to Climate Change
Most modeling studies on terrestrial feedbacks to warming over the twenty-first century imply that the net feedbacks are negative—that changes in ecosystems, on the whole, resist warming, largely through ecosystem carbon storage. Although it is clear that potentially important mechanisms can lead to carbon storage, a number of less well-understood mechanisms, several of which are rarely or incompletely modeled, tend to diminish the negative feedbacks or lead to positive feedbacks. At high latitudes, negative feedbacks from forest expansion are likely to be largely or completely compensated by positive feedbacks from decreased albedo, increased carbon emissions from thawed permafrost, and increased wildfire. At low latitudes, negative feedbacks to warming will be decreased or eliminated, largely through direct human impacts. With modest warming, net feedbacks of terrestrial ecosystems to warming are likely to be negative in the tropics and positive at high latitudes. Larger amounts of warming will generally push the feedbacks toward the positive.