Climate: Melting glaciers adding dissolved carbon to world’s oceans

Scientists eye impacts to high-latitude marine ecosystems

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Melting glaciers, like the Dachstein in Austria, may be a big source of dissolved carbon with the potential to affect downstream ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — As if rising sea levels aren’t enough to worry about, U.S. Geological Survey scientists say melting glaciers may also adding significant amounts of carbon to the oceans, where it’s readily available to microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain.

By 2050, that carbon could total as much as 17 million tons, equal to about half of the annual flux of dissolved organic carbon from the Amazon River, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, cautioning that their calculations are subject to revision.

The study aimed to better understand the role glaciers play in the global carbon cycle, especially as climate warming continues to reduce glacier ice stores and release ice-locked organic carbon into downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems. Continue reading

Oceans: What triggers phytoplankton blooms?

New study will deepen understanding of plankton’s role in global carbon cycle

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands.

A European Space Agency satellite image shows a phytoplankton bloom near the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists working in the Gulf of Mexico are tracking BP's spilled oil as it works its way up the food web, from bacteria to plankton. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

How does ocean phytoplankton respond to global warming?

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s well-known that ocean phytoplankton are a key link in the global carbon cycle, and a new study this year will help expand that understanding.

A researcher with Oregon State University will lead a $30 million NASA-funded study to look at a phytoplankton hot spot stretching from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to the Azores and north to Greenland’s southern tip.

The research could challenge conventional wisdom about when and why phytoplankton bloom and help show how global warming will change the oceans. Continue reading

Study: Tropical forests still gulping huge amounts of carbon, but for how long?

The word's rainforests, shown in green, are going to suffer huge biodiversity losses as global temperatures rise.

The word’s tropical rainforests, shown in green, are more important carbon sinks than previously thought.

Carbon uptake in northern forests slows

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tropical forests are even more important carbon sinks than previously believed, according to a new study led by NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas. Continue reading

Climate: Logging leads to long-term release of carbon from soils in Northeastern hardwood forests

Findings challenge carbon-balance assumptions of woody biomass energy boosters

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A forest health logging site on Swan Mountain near Dillon, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Logging forests may have a more significant impact on carbon storage in soils than previously believed, Dartmouth College researchers found after taking a close look at at how timber harvesting affects mineral soil carbon over 100 years.

The study found that, while logging  doesn’t immediately release carbon stored in a forest’s mineral soils into the atmosphere, it triggers a gradual release that may contribute to climate change over decades. Continue reading

Tracking ancient greenhouse gas pulses shows climate trouble ahead

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Massive permafrost meltdown could lead to runaway warming.

Carbon cycle subject to major changes as permafrost melts

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s yet more evidence that melting Arctic permafrost will amplify global warming by releasing huge amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

In the latest study, Scientists with the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research tracked a pulse of CO2 and other greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere about 14,600 years ago. Continue reading

How does the Southern Ocean regulate global climate?

Major research project to examine carbon cycling, circulation dynamics

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A new research project will help explain how the Southern Ocean helps regulate the global climate. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even though it’s eparated from the rest of the world’s oceans by a strong circulation of currents and a distinct temperature gradient, the Southern Ocean is known to be a key driver of global climate and carbon cycles.

Climate researchers and oceanographers may soon know a lot more about the enigmatic ocean as they deploy hundreds of robotic floats deployed around Antarctica in a six-year, $21 million research project aimed at understanding ocean dynamics, chemistry and carbon cycling. The new instruments will increase the flow of Southern Ocean data 30-fold. Continue reading

Forest fragmentation alters global carbon cycle

Careful measurements show how roads and other disturbances affect moisture and the ability of fungi and bacteria to break down dead wood

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Forest fragmentation has a big impact on the carbon cycle. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Logging roads, clearcuts and other disturbances that fragment forests can slow the decay of dead wood and significantly alter the cycling of carbon and nutrients in woodland ecosystems, according to a new study.

Scientists with Earthwatch and the University of Exeter (UK) took a hard look at global forest fragmentation, starting the well-known fact that the edge effect influences temperature, moisture and other elements of forest microclimates. But the effect on the carbon cycle is less understood, so the researchers used on-the-ground experiments combined with modeling to try and fill the gaps. Continue reading

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