The Sub-Saharan Africa carbon balance, an overview
journal contributionposted on 10.02.2016, 10:14 by A. Bombelli, M. Henry, S. Castaldi, S. Adu-Bredu, A. Arneth, A. De Grandcourt, E. Grieco, W. L. Kutsch, V. Lehsten, G. A. Rasile, M. Reichstein, Kevin James Tansey, U. Weber, R. Valentini
This study presents a summary overview of the carbon balance of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by synthesizing the available data from national communications to UNFCCC and first results from the project CarboAfrica (net ecosystem productivity and emis- sions from fires, deforestation and forest degradation, by field and model estimates). 5 According to these preliminary estimates the overall carbon balance of SSA varies from 0.43 Pg C y − 1 (using in situ measurements for savanna NEP) to a much higher sink of 2.53 Pg C y − 1 (using model estimates for savanna NEP). UNFCCC estimates lead to a moderate carbon sink of 0.58Pg C y − 1 . Excluding anthropogenic disturbance and intrinsic episodic events, the carbon uptake by forests (0.98 Pg C y − 1 ) and savannas 10 (from 1.38 to 3.48 Pg C y − 1 , depending on the used methodology) are the main com- ponents of the SSA sink e ff ect. Fires (0.72 Pg C y − 1 ), deforestation (0.25 Pg C y − 1 ) and forest degradation (0.77 Pg C y − 1 ) are the main contributors to the SSA carbon emis- sions, while the agricultural sector contributes only with 0.12 Pg C y − 1 . Notably, the impact of forest degradation is higher than that caused by deforestation, and the SSA 15 forest net carbon balance is close to equilibrium. Savannas play a major role in shap- ing the SSA carbon balance, due to their large areal extent, their fire regime, and their strong interannual NEP variability, but they are also a major uncertainty in the overall budget. This paper shows that Africa plays a key role in the global carbon cycle sys- tem and probably could have a potential for carbon sequestration higher than expected, 20 even if still highly uncertain. Further investigations are needed, particularly to better address the role of savannas and tropical forests. The current CarboAfrica network of carbon measurements could provide future unique data sets for better estimating the African carbon balance.