China's sizeable and uncertain carbon sink: A perspective from GOSAT


Despite the agreement that China’s terrestrial ecosystems can provide a carbon sink and offset carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels, the magnitude and spatial distribution of the sink remain uncertain. Accurate quantification of the carbon sequestration capacity of China’s terrestrial ecosystems has profound scientific and policy implications. Here, we report on the magnitude and patterns of China’s terrestrial carbon sink using the global monthly CO2 flux data product from the Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite (GOSAT), the world’s first satellite dedicated to global greenhouse gas observation. We use the first year’s data from GOSAT (June 2009–May 2010) that are currently available to assess China’s biospheric carbon fluxes. Our results show that China’s terrestrial ecosystems provide a carbon sink of −0.21 Pg C a−1. The consumption of fossil fuels in China leads to carbon dioxide emissions of 1.90 Pg C a−1 into the atmosphere, approximately 11.1 % of which is offset by China’s terrestrial ecosystems. China’s terrestrial ecosystems play a significant role in offsetting fossil fuel emissions and slowing down the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. Our analysis based on GOSAT data offers a new perspective on the magnitude and distribution of China’s carbon sink. Our results show that China’s terrestrial ecosystems provide a sizeable and uncertain carbon sink, and further research is needed to reduce the uncertainty in its magnitude and distribution.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Chinese Science Bulletin



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© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014