State of the science in reconciling top‐down and bottom‐up approaches for terrestrial CO₂ budget

Kondo, Masayuki; Patra, Prabir K.; Sitch, Stephen; Friedlingstein, Pierre; Poulter, Benjamin; Chevallier, Frederic; Ciais, Philippe; Canadell, Josep G.; Bastos, Ana; Lauerwald, Ronny; Calle, Leonardo; Ichii, Kazuhito; Anthoni, Peter; Arneth, Almut; Haverd, Vanessa; Jain, Atul K.; Kato, Etsushi; Kautz, Markus; Law, Rachel M.; Lienert, Sebastian; ... (2020). State of the science in reconciling top‐down and bottom‐up approaches for terrestrial CO₂ budget. Global change biology, 26(3), pp. 1068-1084. Wiley 10.1111/gcb.14917

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Robust estimates of CO₂ budget, CO₂ exchanged between the atmosphere and terrestrial biosphere, are necessary to better understand the role of the terrestrial biosphere in mitigating anthropogenic CO₂ emissions. Over the past decade, this field of research has advanced through understanding of the differences and similarities of two fundamentally different approaches: “top-down” atmospheric inversions and “bottom-up” biosphere models. Since the first studies were undertaken, these ap-proaches have shown an increasing level of agreement, but disagreements in some regions still persist, in part because they do not estimate the same quantity of atmos-phere–biosphere CO₂ exchange. Here, we conducted a thorough comparison of CO₂ budgets at multiple scales and from multiple methods to assess the current state of the science in estimating CO₂ budgets. Our set of atmospheric inversions and bio-sphere models, which were adjusted for a consistent flux definition, showed a high level of agreement for global and hemispheric CO₂ budgets in the 2000s. Regionally, improved agreement in CO₂ budgets was notable for North America and Southeast Asia. However, large gaps between the two methods remained in East Asia and South America. In other regions, Europe, boreal Asia, Africa, South Asia, and Oceania, it was difficult to determine whether those regions act as a net sink or source because of the large spread in estimates from atmospheric inversions. These results highlight two research directions to improve the robustness of CO₂ budgets: (a) to increase repre-sentation of processes in biosphere models that could contribute to fill the budget gaps, such as forest regrowth and forest degradation; and (b) to reduce sink–source compensation between regions (dipoles) in atmospheric inversion so that their esti-mates become more comparable. Advancements on both research areas will increase the level of agreement between the top-down and bottom-up approaches and yield more robust knowledge of regional CO₂ budgets.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics

UniBE Contributor:

Lienert, Sebastian


500 Science > 530 Physics








Fortunat Joos

Date Deposited:

30 Mar 2020 11:44

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:37

Publisher DOI:





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