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The U.S. Carbon Budget: Contributions from Land-Use Change

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Science  23 Jul 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5427, pp. 574-578
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5427.574

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Abstract

The rates at which lands in the United States were cleared for agriculture, abandoned, harvested for wood, and burned were reconstructed from historical data for the period 1700–1990 and used in a terrestrial carbon model to calculate annual changes in the amount of carbon stored in terrestrial ecosystems, including wood products. Changes in land use released 27 ± 6 petagrams of carbon to the atmosphere before 1945 and accumulated 2 ± 2 petagrams of carbon after 1945, largely as a result of fire suppression and forest growth on abandoned farmlands. During the 1980s, the net flux of carbon attributable to land management offset 10 to 30 percent of U.S. fossil fuel emissions.

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