Tag: carbon cycle

Earth’s plants are soaking up more of our CO2 these days

Study suggests carbon uptake by forests has doubled since the 1950s

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Forests have doubled their CO2 uptake since the 1950s, a new study says. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Scientists say they’ve place yet another piece in the complex global plant-carbon cycle, with a new study suggested that atmospheric CO2 levels have plateaued in recent years because forests and grasslands are removing more of the heat-trapping gas. The research was led by a scientist with the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory .

Fossil fuel burning and other human activities continue to emit increasing amounts of carbon, but the study found that, between 2002 and 2014, the rate at which CO2 increased in the atmosphere held steady at about 1.9 parts per million annually. Continue reading “Earth’s plants are soaking up more of our CO2 these days”

How will boreal forests respond to global warming?

New satellite data helps track photosynthesis in evergreens

How will forests respond to global warming? @bberwyn photo.
An aerial photo of forests in western Colorado. New satellite data will help show how evergreen forests are responding to climate change. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Despite the huge importance of forests in the global carbon cycle, researchers still aren’t exactly certain how they will respond to climate change. But that could soon change thanks to satellite sensors that can track photosynthesis in evergreen forests by monitoring slight color shifts.

The new information could help assess the health of northern forests over time, showing how they are responding to global warming. Photosynthesis is easy to track in deciduous trees — when leaves bud or turn yellow and fall off. But until recently, it had been impossible to detect in evergreen conifers on a large scale. Continue reading “How will boreal forests respond to global warming?”

Droughts slow Amazon carbon uptake

Study shows rainforest resilience

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How much drought can the Amazon withstand? Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

After studying the impacts of recent droughts in the Amazon, researchers are warning that the rainforest may gradually be losing its ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere. But their study also shows that the ecosystem is resilient and can recover quickly in between droughts.

The study used data from from droughts in 2005 and 2010, finding that tree growth slowed across the vast forests of the Amazon Basin. Long-term measurements from theRAINFOR network spanning nearly a hundred locations across the Amazon Basin helped show how the rainforest temporarily lost biomass. Both droughts killed many trees, but the 2010 drought also had the effect of slowing the growth rates of the survivors, suggesting that many trees were adversely affected but not to the point of death. Continue reading “Droughts slow Amazon carbon uptake”

Climate: Slower currents during last ice age helped oceans store more carbon

A new study shows how ocean currents play a huge role in the global carbon cycle. @bberwyn photo.
A new study shows how the speed of ocean currents play a huge role in the global carbon cycle. @bberwyn photo.

New study helps explain how carbon flux changes over time

Staff Report

The shells of tiny ocean organisms called foraminifera have once again given climate researchers huge clues about the long-term carbon cycle in the world’s oceans. The information helps show the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases will affect the climate.

A pair of new studies led by University of Cambridge scientists show that cold oceans at the peak of the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, circulated much more slowly, enabling them to store more carbon for longer than modern oceans. Continue reading “Climate: Slower currents during last ice age helped oceans store more carbon”

Climate: USGS measures Alaska land carbon stock

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How will Arctic tundra respond to climate change? @bberwyn photo.

New assessment finds increased plant growth will absorb more carbon through end of the century

Staff Report

With temperatures in the Arctic warming far faster than the global average, scientists have been trying to quantify how climate change will affect the carbon cycle.

A new study led by U.S. Geological Survey and University of Alaska at Fairbanks scientists took a close look at the question in Alaska — an effort to get some baseline data on the carbon cycle against which to measure future changes.

Alaska makes up about 18 percent of the total U.S. land area but accounts for about 35 percent of the total carbon stock. The future of that carbon has big implications for global climate. If it’s released quickly, it could drive up global temperatures more than expected. And the carbon stored in high latitude ecosystems is considered to be vulnerable to climate change because of global warming. Continue reading “Climate: USGS measures Alaska land carbon stock”

Study: Aquifers beneath deserts may be huge CO2 sinks

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Great Sand Dunes National Park. @bberwyn photo.

Research tracks path of carbon dioxide via agriculture to underground storage

Staff Report

FRISCO — Vast aquifers beneath the world’s deserts may be significant carbon sinks, scientists with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research said.

In a new study, the UCAR researchers estimated that those aquifers may store more carbon than all the plants on land.

About 40 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by people stays in the atmosphere and heats the planet. About 30 percent is taken up by oceans, where it is rapidly acidifying the water to the detriment of shellfish and other marine species.

The other 30 percent is partially absorbed by land plants, but when scientists ran CO2 models, it didn’t add up, so they started searching for additional carbon sinks. Continue reading “Study: Aquifers beneath deserts may be huge CO2 sinks”

Environment: Can adaptive grazing techniques help rebuild soils and sequester carbon?

Most modern cattle, including these longhorns near Silverthorne, Colorado, are descended from a
Adaptive grazing could have environmental benefits, researchers say. bberwyn photo.

Short-rotation pastures with long recovery time for fields may yield environmental benefits

Staff Report

FRISCO — While healthy forests are known to be important carbon sinks in the global atmospheric cycle, there’s also a role for robust soils, according to a study team that’s exploring whether new grazing management techniques could have long-term environmental benefits.

The Arizona State University-SoilCarbon Nation team is looking at adaptive multi-paddock grazing, rotating stock through small pastures for short periods of grazing and longer recovery periods for soil and vegetation.  The method mimics the migrations of wild herd animals, such as elk, bison and deer, and could help create robust soils, watersheds and wildlife habitat while sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. Continue reading “Environment: Can adaptive grazing techniques help rebuild soils and sequester carbon?”