Grasslands may be more reliable carbon sinks than forests in California

Although natural terrestrial ecosystems have sequestered ~25% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, the long-term sustainability of this key ecosystem service is under question. Forests have traditionally been viewed as robust carbon (C) sinks; however, extreme heat-waves, drought and wildfire have increased tree mortality, particularly in widespread semi-arid regions, which account for ~41% of Earth's land surface. Using a set of modeling experiments, we show that California grasslands are a more resilient C sink than forests in response to 21st century changes in climate, with implications for designing climate-smart Cap and Trade offset policies.

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