Research Fellows Directory
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein
University of Exeter
With my research group, I am studying climate feedbacks involving the land ecosystems. We found that global warming reduces the amount of carbon taken by land ecosystems, leaving more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, hence amplifying global warming. Tropical forests are getting water stressed in a warmer world, which reduces their growth. Also, decay of soil organic matter increases with the warming.
More recently, my research focused on Arctic permafrost. Global warming will induce a melting of the permafrost, thawed soil carbon will start to decay, releasing carbon dioxide or methane to the atmosphere. Permafrost soils decomposition could also release methane, a greenhouse gas with an even stronger warming potential than CO2. Melting of permafrost will definitely induce a positive feedback in the climate system, but what we do not know yet is how large it could be.
Terrestrial ecosystems will clearly be impacted by climate change, in return, inducing potentially large feedbacks in the climate system. My key motivating question is to identify and quantify these climate-land ecosystems feedbacks in order to better estimate future climate change. My research brings fundamental understanding of ecosystems processes into a much broader societal and policy relevant picture. How large will be the global warming of the coming century? Will impact on land ecosystems make things worse? How dramatically do we need to reduce greenhouse gases emissions in order to limit climate change and the risk of triggering these positive feedbacks?
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)