We develop an approach for estimating net ecosystem exchange (NEE) using inventory-based information over North America (NA) for a recent 7-year period (ca. 2000-2006). The approach notably retains information on the spatial distribution of NEE, or the vertical exchange between land and atmosphere of all non-fossil fuel sources and sinks of CO2, while accounting for lateral transfers of forest and crop products as well as their eventual emissions. The total NEE estimate of a -327 similar to +/-similar to 252 similar to TgC similar to yr-1 sink for NA was driven primarily by CO2 uptake in the Forest Lands sector (-248 similar to TgC similar to yr-1), largely in the Northwest and Southeast regions of the US, and in the Crop Lands sector (-297 similar to TgC similar to yr-1), predominantly in the Midwest US states. These sinks are counteracted by the carbon source estimated for the Other Lands sector (+218 similar to TgC similar to yr-1), where much of the forest and crop products are assumed to be returned to the atmosphere (through livestock and human consumption). The ecosystems of Mexico are estimated to be a small net source (+18 similar to TgC similar to yr-1) due to land use change between 1993 and 2002. We compare these inventory-based estimates with results from a suite of terrestrial biosphere and atmospheric inversion models, where the mean continental-scale NEE estimate for each ensemble is -511 similar to TgC similar to yr-1 and -931 similar to TgC similar to yr-1, respectively. In the modeling approaches, all sectors, including Other Lands, were generally estimated to be a carbon sink, driven in part by assumed CO2 fertilization and/or lack of consideration of carbon sources from disturbances and product emissions. Additional fluxes not measured by the inventories, although highly uncertain, could add an additional -239 similar to TgC similar to yr-1 to the inventory-based NA sink estimate, thus suggesting some convergence with the modeling approaches.
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