Impacts of urbanization on carbon balance in terrestrial ecosystems of the Southern United States

Chi Zhang, Hanqin Tian, Guangsheng Chen, Arthur Chappelka, Xiaofeng Xu, Wei Ren, Dafeng Hui, Mingliang Liu, Chaoqun Lu, Shufen Pan, Graeme Lockaby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Using a process-based Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model, we assessed carbon dynamics of urbanized/developed lands in the Southern United States during 1945-2007. The results indicated that approximately 1.72 (1.69-1.77) Pg (1P = 10 15) carbon was stored in urban/developed lands, comparable to the storage of shrubland or cropland in the region. Urbanization resulted in a release of 0.21 Pg carbon to the atmosphere during 1945-2007. Pre-urbanization vegetation type and time since land conversion were two primary factors determining the extent of urbanization impacts on carbon dynamics. After a rapid decline of carbon storage during land conversion, an urban ecosystem gradually accumulates carbon and may compensate for the initial carbon loss in 70-100 years. The carbon sequestration rate of urban ecosystem diminishes with time, nearly disappearing in two centuries after land conversion. This study implied that it is important to take urbanization effect into account for assessing regional carbon balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-101
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - May 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study has been supported by the NSFC program ( #31170347 ), US Department of Energy NICCR Program (DUKE-UN-07-SC-NICCR-1014), NASA IDS Program (NNX10AU06G), Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station ( AAES ) Hatch/Multistate Funding Program and the Center for Forest Sustainability at Auburn University .


  • Carbon dynamics
  • Dynamic Land Ecosystem Model (DLEM)
  • Land-use change
  • The Southern United States
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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