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Marko Scholze

Senior lecturer

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China's Terrestrial Carbon Sink Over 2010–2015 Constrained by Satellite Observations of Atmospheric CO2 and Land Surface Variables


  • Wei He
  • Fei Jiang
  • Mousong Wu
  • Weimin Ju
  • Marko Scholze
  • Jing M. Chen
  • Brendan Byrne
  • Junjie Liu
  • Hengmao Wang
  • Jun Wang
  • Songhan Wang
  • Yanlian Zhou
  • Chunhua Zhang
  • Ngoc Tu Nguyen
  • Yang Shen
  • Zhi Chen

Summary, in English

The magnitude and distribution of China's terrestrial carbon sink remain uncertain due to insufficient constraints at large scales, whereby satellite data offer great potential for reducing the uncertainty. Here, we present two carbon sink estimates for China constrained either by satellite CO2 column concentrations (XCO2) within the Global Carbon Assimilation System or by remotely sensed soil moisture and Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FAPAR) in addition to in situ CO2 observations within the Carbon Cycle Data Assimilation System. They point to a moderate size of carbon sinks of 0.34 ± 0.14 (mean ± unc.) and 0.43 ± 0.09 PgC/yr during 2010–2015, which are supported by an inventory-based estimate for forest and soil carbon sink (0.26 PgC/yr) and fall in the range of contemporary ensemble atmospheric inversions (0.25–0.48 PgC/yr). They also agree reasonably well on interannual variations, which reflect the carbon sink anomalies induced by regional droughts in southwest China. Furthermore, their spatial distributions are broadly consistent that of the forest inventory-based estimate, indicating that the largest carbon sinks locate in central and eastern China. Their estimates for forest carbon sink coincide fairly well with the inventory-based estimate across different regions, especially when aggregated to the north and south of China. Although enhanced recently by afforestation, China's carbon sink was also significantly weakened by regional droughts, which were often not fully represented in previous in situ CO2-based inversions due to insufficient observations. Our results suggest that satellite-based atmospheric CO2 and land surface observations are vital in characterizing terrestrial net carbon fluxes at regional scales.


  • Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
  • eSSENCE: The e-Science Collaboration
  • MERGE: ModElling the Regional and Global Earth system
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate

Publishing year





Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences





Document type

Journal article




  • Physical Geography


  • atmospheric CO concentration
  • atmospheric inversion
  • China's carbon sink
  • data assimilation
  • multisource satellite observations




  • ISSN: 2169-8953