Vegetation redistribution is predicted to intensify soil organic carbon loss under future climate changes on the Tibetan Plateau

Peipei Liu, Haijun Zeng, Lingyan Qi, A. Allan Degen, Randall B. Boone, Binyu Luo, Mei Huang, Zhen Peng, Tianyun Qi, Wenyin Wang, Xiaoping Jing, Zhanhuan Shang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vegetation redistribution may bring unexpected climate-soil carbon cycling in terrestrial biomes. However, whether and how vegetation redistribution alters the soil carbon pool under climate change is still poorly understood on the Tibetan Plateau. Here, we applied the G-Range model to simulate the cover of herbs, shrubs and trees, net primary productivity (NPP) and soil organic carbon density (SOCD) at the depth of 60 cm on Tibetan Plateau for the individual years 2020 and 2060, using climate projection for Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios with the RegCM4.6 model system. Vegetation redistribution was defined as the transitions in bare ground, herbs, shrubs and trees between 2020 and 2060, with approximately 57.9 % (RCP4.5) and 59 % (RCP8.5) of the area will redistribute vegetation over the whole Tibetan Plateau. The vegetation cover will increase by about 2.4 % (RCP4.5) and 1.9 % (RCP8.5), while the NPP and SOCD will decrease by about −14.3 g C m−2 yr−1 and −907 g C m−2 (RCP4.5), and −1.8 g C m−2 yr−1and −920 g C m−2 (RCP8.5). Shrubs and trees will expand in the east, and herbs will expand in the northwest part of the Plateau. These areas are projected to be hotspots with greater SOCD reduction in response to future climate change, and will include lower net plant carbon input due to the negative NPP. Our study indicates that the SOC pool will become a carbon source under increased air temperature and rainfall on the Tibetan Plateau by 2060, especially for the area with vegetation redistribution. These results revealed the potential risk of vegetation redistribution under climate change in alpine ecosystems, indicating the policymakers need to pay attention on the vegetation redistribution to mitigate the soil carbon emission and achieve the goal of carbon neutrality on the Tibetan Plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173034
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2024


  • Climate warming and wetting
  • G-Range model
  • RCP4.5 and RCP8.5
  • Soil organic carbon density
  • Tibetan Plateau
  • Woody and herbs redistribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Vegetation redistribution is predicted to intensify soil organic carbon loss under future climate changes on the Tibetan Plateau'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this