Modelling prehistoric land use and carbon budgets: A critical review

An evaluation of modelled estimates for C release following early land clearance at the global level based on new model assumptions suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated its magnitude, chiefly because of underestimation of the mid-Holocene global population. Alternative information sources for population and land utilisation support both a greater total CO2 release and a greater Neolithic contribution.

Indeed, this study shows that the quantity of terrestrial C release due to early farming, even using the most conservative assumptions, greatly exceeds the net terrestrial C release estimated by inverse modelling of ice core data by Elsig et al. (Elsig J, Schmitt J, Leuenberger D, Schneider R, Eyer M, Leuenberger M et al. (2009) Stable isotope constraints on Holocene carbon cycle changes from an Antarctic ice core. Nature 461: 507–510), though uncertainty about past global population estimates precludes calculation of a precise value.

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