Terrestrial biogeochemical feedbacks in the climate system: from past to future
The terrestrial biosphere is a key regulator of atmospheric chemistry and climate. During past periods of climate change, vegetation cover and interactions between the terrestrial biosphere and atmosphere changed within decades. Modern observations show a similar responsiveness of terrestrial biogeochemistry to anthropogenically forced climate change and air pollution. Although interactions between the carbon cycle and climate have been a central focus, other biogeochemical feedbacks could be as important in modulating future climate change. Total positive radiative forcings resulting from feedbacks between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere are estimated to reach up to 0.9 or 1.5 W m−2 K−1 towards the end of the twenty-first century, depending on the extent to which interactions with the nitrogen cycle stimulate or limit carbon sequestration. This substantially reduces and potentially even eliminates the cooling effect owing to carbon dioxide fertilization of the terrestrial biota. The overall magnitude of the biogeochemical feedbacks could potentially be similar to that of feedbacks in the physical climate system, but there are large uncertainties in the magnitude of individual estimates and in accounting for synergies between these effects.