The European carbon balance. Part 4: integration of carbon and other trace-gas fluxes



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: The European carbon balance. Part 4: integration of carbon and other trace-gas fluxes Volume 16, Issue 8, 2399, Article first published online: 1 July 2010

Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, PO Box 10 01 64, 07701 Jena, Germany. tel. +49 3641 576100, e-mail:


Overviewing the European carbon (C), greenhouse gas (GHG), and non-GHG fluxes, gross primary productivity (GPP) is about 9.3 Pg yr−1, and fossil fuel imports are 1.6 Pg yr−1. GPP is about 1.25% of solar radiation, containing about 360 × 1018 J energy – five times the energy content of annual fossil fuel use. Net primary production (NPP) is 50%, terrestrial net biome productivity, NBP, 3%, and the net GHG balance, NGB, 0.3% of GPP. Human harvest uses 20% of NPP or 10% of GPP, or alternatively 1‰ of solar radiation after accounting for the inherent cost of agriculture and forestry, for production of pesticides and fertilizer, the return of organic fertilizer, and for the C equivalent cost of GHG emissions. C equivalents are defined on a global warming potential with a 100-year time horizon. The equivalent of about 2.4% of the mineral fertilizer input is emitted as N2O. Agricultural emissions to the atmosphere are about 40% of total methane, 60% of total NO-N, 70% of total N2O-N, and 95% of total NH3-N emissions of Europe. European soils are a net C sink (114 Tg yr−1), but considering the emissions of GHGs, soils are a source of about 26 Tg CO2 C-equivalent yr−1. Forest, grassland and sediment C sinks are offset by GHG emissions from croplands, peatlands and inland waters. Non-GHGs (NH3, NOx) interact significantly with the GHG and the C cycle through ammonium nitrate aerosols and dry deposition. Wet deposition of nitrogen (N) supports about 50% of forest timber growth. Land use change is regionally important. The absolute flux values total about 50 Tg C yr−1. Nevertheless, for the European trace-gas balance, land-use intensity is more important than land-use change. This study shows that emissions of GHGs and non-GHGs significantly distort the C cycle and eliminate apparent C sinks.