Predicting Future Climate Change Forecasts, Landscapes Help Scientists Make Better Predictions

First Posted: Feb 03, 2016 01:31 PM EST

Scientists can now make better predictions on the impact of future climate change with the help of maps covering the world's natural landscapes, according to a study. The design of forests, grasslands and other types of productive ecosystems can enable scientists to determine how atmospheric carbon is reused and recycled by natural habitats. Even though these landscapes gather and process massive amounts of carbon dioxide, not much is known about where carbon is stored or how long it remains there.

"Our findings are a major step towards deciphering how carbon flows through the Earth's natural habitats from satellite images," Dr. Anthony Bloom, coauthor of the study, said in a news release. "These results will help us understand how the natural carbon balance will respond to human disturbances and climate change".

The researchers used images from field and satellite data which were gathered from 2000 to 2010 to construct maps that shows where and how long carbon is stored in vegetation and soils. The findings indicated that the biological properties of leaves, roots and root in various habitats affects their ability to store carbon.

The researchers found that some ecosystem can store carbon for longer periods of time compared to others - dry tropics can store carbon for a short period, while wet climates carbon is stored for long period of time plants than in soils. The researchers believe that understanding how carbon is stored could enable scientists to make accurate predictions about the effects of climate change.

"Our results constitute a useful, modern, benchmark to help improve these models and the robustness of global climate projections," said Mathew Williams, lead author of the study.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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