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Terrestrial carbon balance in tropical Asia: Contribution from cropland expansion and land management

Tao, Bo, Tian, Hanqin, Chen, Guangsheng, Ren, Wei, Lu, Chaoqun, Alley, Kelly D., Xu, Xiaofeng, Liu, Mingliang, Pan, Shufen, Virji, Hassan
Global and Planetary Change 2013 v.100 pp. 85-98
biomass, carbon, carbon cycle, climate, cropland, ecosystems, emissions, forests, irrigation, land management, models, nitrogen fertilizers, soil, soil organic matter, South Asia, South East Asia
Tropical Asia has experienced dramatic cropland expansion and agricultural intensification to meet the increasing food demand and is likely to undergo further rapid development in the near future. Much concern has been raised about how cropland expansion and associated management practices (nitrogen fertilizer use, irrigation, etc.) have affected the terrestrial carbon cycle in this region. In this study, we used a process-based ecosystem model, the Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model (DLEM), to assess the magnitude, spatial and temporal patterns of terrestrial carbon fluxes and pools in Tropical Asia as resulted from cropland expansion and land management practices during 1901–2005. The results indicated that cropland expansion had resulted in a release of 19.12±3.06PgC (0.18±0.029PgC/yr) into the atmosphere in Tropical Asia over the study period. Of this amount, approximately 22% (4.18±0.66PgC) was released from South Asia and 78% (14.94±2.40PgC) from Southeast Asia. Larger land area was converted to cropland while less carbon was emitted from South Asia than from Southeast Asia, where forest biomass and soil carbon were significantly higher. Changes in vegetation, soil organic matter, and litter pools caused emissions of 15.58, 2.25, and 1.71PgC, respectively, from the entire region. Significant decreases in vegetation carbon occurred across most regions of Southeast Asia due to continuous cropland expansion and shrink of natural forests. When considering land management practices, however, less carbon was released into the atmosphere, especially in South Asia where land management practices contributed to an approximately 10% reduction in carbon emission. This implies that optimizing land management practices could greatly reduce the carbon emissions caused by cropland expansion and might be one of important climate mitigation options in Tropical Asia.