Drylands in the Earth System

Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 418-419
DOI: 10.1126/science.1184946

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Arid regions (or drylands) cover about 45% of Earth's land surface; in most classifications of ecosystem types, they constitute the largest biome on the planet. Yet the global change literature is dominated by other ecosystems, particularly the humid tropics, with high deforestation rates and high biodiversity levels, and the Arctic regions, with high rates of warming and huge stocks of vulnerable carbon. Drylands are less studied because they seem to have low rates of biological activity and sparse biota. On page 451 of this issue, Rotenberg and Yakir (1) present evidence that contradicts this received wisdom. The dryland Yatir Forest in Israel takes up carbon at rates similar to those of pine forests in continental Europe.