Warming-induced vegetation growth cancels out soil carbon-climate feedback in the northern Asian permafrost region in the 21st century

Jianzhao Liu, Fenghui Yuan, Yunjiang Zuo, Rui Zhou, Xinhao Zhu, Kexin Li, Nannan Wang, Ning Chen, Ziyu Guo, Lihua Zhang, Ying Sun, Yuedong Guo, Changchun Song, Xiaofeng Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Permafrost soils represent an enormous carbon (C) pool that is highly vulnerable to climate warming. We used the model output ensemble of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 to estimate the C storage in soil, litter, and vegetation in the current extent of northern Asian permafrost during 1900-2100. The contemporary (1995-2014) C storage was estimated to be 368.1 ± 82.5 Pg C for the full column depth of the soil, 13.3 ± 4.6 Pg C in litter, and 22.2 ± 3.2 Pg C in vegetation biomass, while these C storage levels are projected to decline by 3.9 Pg C (1.1%) in soils, increase of 0.03 Pg C (0.2%) in litter, and increase by 21.1 Pg C (95.3%) in vegetation biomass by the end of the 21st century under SSP585. The total C storage was dominated by warming-induced vegetation growth. Partial correlation analysis showed that surface air temperature (TAS), soil liquid water, and soil mineral nitrogen (SMN) dominated the soil and vegetation C pools, while SMN controlled litter C during the historical period. Under future scenarios, TAS and SMN dominated the changes of soil and litter C, while TAS determined the vegetation C increase. The growing soil C loss with warming indicates positive C-climate feedback in soils; this warming-induced acceleration of soil C loss was canceled out by the enhanced vegetation C accumulation, leading to a strong C sink in the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084009
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (Nos. 41730643, 32171873 and 41701198) of China, Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDA28020502) and Liaoning Provincial Natural Science Foundation (2020-MS-027). X X is grateful for the financial and facility support from San Diego State University. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which significantly improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • carbon feedback
  • carbon storage
  • climate change
  • CMIP6
  • dominate factor
  • driving factor
  • permafrost


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