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Team finds a better way to gauge the climate costs of land use changes
Date:1/8/2012

ter evaporates, in the same way that sweating cools your skin," said DeLucia, who also is an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois.

Scientists have known about biophysical effects for a long time, Anderson-Teixeira said. "But the challenge has been to incorporate them into a single metric that will help us design land-use policies that are going to help mitigate and not exacerbate climate change."

To tackle this problem, Anderson-Teixeira and DeLucia teamed with University of Minnesota professors Peter Snyder and Tracy Twine; professor Santiago Cuadra, of the Federal Center of Technological Education in Rio de Janeiro; and professor Marcos Costa, of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Brazil. The researchers compiled data to calculate the "greenhouse gas value" of 18 "ecoregions" across North and South America, and also modeled the ecoregions' biophysical characteristics. They looked at several types of forest, as well as grassland, tundra, tropical savanna and agricultural crops, such as soy, sugarcane, corn, miscanthus and switchgrass. (Please see graphic.)

"The challenge of combining the greenhouse gases with the biophysical effects is that they operate over very different spatial and temporal scales," Anderson-Teixeira said. To integrate the two, the researchers first divided the local biophysical effects by the global land surface area. They then combined the measures and converted the values into carbon dioxide equivalents, a common currency in the world of climate mitigation.

The researchers found that biophysical attributes make a tropical rainforest even more valuable for protection against climate warming, but lessen the climate value of boreal (evergreen) forests in Canada.

Any forest provides a climate service by storing carbon, the researchers said, but forests also absorb more solar radiation than bare ground. Tropical fore
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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