Deforestation Induced Climate Change: Effects of Spatial Scale
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Deforestation is associated with increased atmospheric CO2 and alterations to the surface energy and mass balances that can lead to local and global climate changes. Previous modelling studies show that the global surface air temperature (SAT) response to deforestation depends on latitude, with most simulations showing that high latitude deforestation results in cooling, low latitude deforestation causes warming and that the mid latitude response is mixed. These earlier conclusions are based on simulated large scal land cover change, with complete removal of trees from whole latitude bands. Using a global climate model we examine the effects of removing fractions of 5% to 100% of forested areas in the high, mid and low latitudes. All high latitude deforestation scenarios reduce mean global SAT, the opposite occurring for low latitude deforestation, although a decrease in SAT is simulated over low latitude deforested areas. Mid latitude SAT response is mixed. In all simulations deforested areas tend to become drier and have lower SAT, although soil temperatures increase over deforested mid and low latitude grid cells. For high latitude deforestation fractions of 45% and above, larger net primary productivity, in conjunction with colder and drier conditions after deforestation cause an increase in soil carbon large enough to produce a net decrease of atmospheric CO2. Our results reveal the complex interactions between soil carbon dynamics and other climate subsystems in the energy partition responses to land cover change.