Of the approximately 400 Gigatonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere over the past 200 years, only half has remained in the atmosphere. The other half has been absorbed by the earth’s natural carbon sinks— global oceans, soils, and plants— slowing the amount of climate change we might otherwise observe.
While the earth currently acts as a buffer against runaway temperature change, scientists are unsure how long this may last. Land sinks, in particular, fluctuate according to climate and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Increasingly, researchers are investigating how to most accurately measure individual carbon sinks and how ecosystem changes, both natural and human-induced, may alter carbon cycling. This research is vital to improve climate models and to plan effective mitigation strategies.
At the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting this August, 13 researchers will explore the question of carbon cycling. Taken together, these pieces can help inform a more nuanced understanding of global carbon and more accurate projections of climate change trajectories.
Questions being explored in these sessions include:
What is the net effect of both changed albedo and carbon forcing as a result of forest disturbances (e.g. clear cutting or fire)?
What impact does drought have on inter- and intra-annual variability in regional carbon dynamics for semi-arid biomes?
How do anthropogenic alterations in freshwater and nutrient delivery to tidal wetlands regulate marsh accretion and carbon accumulation?
How do climate change-induced vegetation shifts alter carbon storage in coastal wetlands?
How can models of the non-linear responses of NPP to temperature and precipitation variability be used to predict grassland dynamics and shrub encroachment?
Why is incorporating subsurface soil carbon into ecosystem carbon budgets important? How long is a land-use legacy reflected in soil carbon measurements?
How will saltwater intrusion change net system productivity and soil carbon balances in wetlands?