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Organic Carbon Storage in China's Urban Areas

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071975
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Ecological Metrics
  • Biomass (Ecology)
  • Urban Ecology
  • Chemistry
  • Geochemistry
  • Carbon Sink
  • Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Climatology
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Carbon Cycle
  • Economics


China has been experiencing rapid urbanization in parallel with its economic boom over the past three decades. To date, the organic carbon storage in China's urban areas has not been quantified. Here, using data compiled from literature review and statistical yearbooks, we estimated that total carbon storage in China's urban areas was 577±60 Tg C (1 Tg  = 1012 g) in 2006. Soil was the largest contributor to total carbon storage (56%), followed by buildings (36%), and vegetation (7%), while carbon storage in humans was relatively small (1%). The carbon density in China's urban areas was 17.1±1.8 kg C m−2, about two times the national average of all lands. The most sensitive variable in estimating urban carbon storage was urban area. Examining urban carbon storages over a wide range of spatial extents in China and in the United States, we found a strong linear relationship between total urban carbon storage and total urban area, with a specific urban carbon storage of 16 Tg C for every 1,000 km2 urban area. This value might be useful for estimating urban carbon storage at regional to global scales. Our results also showed that the fraction of carbon storage in urban green spaces was still much lower in China relative to western countries, suggesting a great potential to mitigate climate change through urban greening and green spaces management in China.

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