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ABSTRACT

Based on a recent reconstruction of anthropogenic land cover change (ALCC), we derive the associated CO2 emissions since 800 AD by two independent methods: a bookkeeping approach and a process model. The results are compared with the pre-industrial development of atmospheric CO2 known from antarctic ice cores. Our results show that pre-industrial CO2 emissions from ALCC have been relevant for the pre-industrial carbon cycle, although before 1750 AD their trace in atmospheric CO2 is obscured by other processes of similar magnitude. After 1750 AD, the situation is different: the steep increase in atmospheric CO2 until 1850 AD—this is before fossil fuel emissions rose to significant values—is to a substantial part explained by growing emissions from ALCC.