Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Industrial Age Helps Some Coastal Regions Capture Carbon Dioxide

06.12.2013
Researchers assert coastal ocean is an important component of global carbon cycle
Coastal portions of the world’s oceans, once believed to be a source of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, are now thought to absorb as much as two-thirds more carbon than they emitted in the preindustrial age, researchers estimate.

These coastal areas, which now appear to operate as one of the several types of so-called carbon “sinks,” may help moderate global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide, counteracting some of the CO2 released into the atmosphere by human activities. Scientists refer to the extensive shallow waters between land and open oceans as the “coastal ocean.”

That shift of the coastal ocean from carbon source to sink, quantified for the first time in the Dec. 5, 2013, issue of the journal Nature, suggests coastal areas are a key component of the global carbon budget, the scientists say.

“Compared to the open ocean, we know less about the coastal ocean’s carbon cycle even though it’s right in front of us,” said James Bauer, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology in Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the paper.

“There is an intense need for more research because we don’t currently have the data to know exactly what’s going on everywhere,” he said. “The methods are there now that weren’t available 50 years ago. We just have to commit to increasing the number and types of coastal regions being studied.”

Prior to the industrial age, decomposing plant materials in coastal waters and sediments likely led to the release of carbon dioxide. The Nature paper suggests that microscopic plant growth in coastal areas, fueled by fertilizer runoff, is now leading to greater uptake of CO2. It also suggests that the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide caused by the burning of fossil fuels is further contributing to this uptake of CO2 by coastal waters.

New instrumentation allows scientists to generate new best estimates of carbon cycling in coastal areas. Using the latest measures available, Bauer and colleagues created a model estimating that coastal areas released, on average, about 150 million metric tons of carbon per year a century ago. Now, these same waters are estimated to absorb approximately 250 million metric tons of carbon each year.

“Some coastal oceans are still emitting carbon dioxide, so this is a global average and our best estimate of how they’re behaving as a whole around the earth if we add them up based on our current knowledge base,” he said. “To discern a large-scale switch like this on a global scale is fairly unusual.”

Bauer also noted that for the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to acknowledge the importance of coastal waters to the global carbon cycle in its next report, due out in early 2014. The IPCC’s 2007 report and other analyses of the global carbon cycle have largely neglected to take coastal oceans into account, he said.

“When we’re counting every ton of CO2 that we’re putting into the atmosphere, every additional sink is an important one to identify,” he said.

The capture and release of carbon dioxide is difficult to study in coastal systems because of their diverse and variable nature. Coastal areas also represent an enormous part of the global landscape: The current length of all coastlines could wrap around Earth 41 times.

“The coastline represents a huge linear interface between land and the open ocean, and is very important in the transfer of nutrients and carbon between the two,” said Bauer, also a faculty member in Ohio State’s Environmental Sciences Graduate Program.

The scientists detailed their best effort to come up with estimates of carbon cycling in three subsets of coastal areas: those dominated by river outlets, others consisting of filtering estuaries and bays, and the continental shelf – any coastal water reaching a depth of about 200 meters or fewer. The researchers used what little evidence was available about the preindustrial age to develop a likely scenario for the coastal ocean at that time.

In broad terms, coastal waters were primarily full of decomposing plant materials 100 years ago, which suggests that the coastal ocean of that era released carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

With the human activity associated with industrialization, however, came the burning of fossil fuels for manufacturing and transportation, putting more carbon dioxide into the air and creating an increased pressure of this gas on some regions of the earth’s surface – including coastal areas. Following World War II, manufacturers also began producing vast quantities of agricultural fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorous – and about 95 percent of these nutrients run off into rivers and are flushed into coastal waters. There, these elements stimulate microscopic plant production, which draws carbon dioxide into the water to aid in plant growth.

“The evidence suggests that human activities in coastal zones will continue to have an important impact on global carbon cycling,” Bauer said. “It’s a tricky area of study, but omitting the coastal ocean from the overall carbon budget leaves a gap in projections for future atmospheric CO2 levels.”

This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s Chemical and Biological Oceanography, Integrated Carbon Cycle Research, Arctic Natural Sciences, Long-Term Ecological Research, and Ecosystem Ecology programs; NASA’s Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science program; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Georgia Sea Grant; the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program project GEOCARBON; and the government of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Co-authors of the paper include Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware; Peter Raymond of Yale University; Thomas Bianchi of the University of Florida; Charles Hopkinson of the University of Georgia; and Pierre Regnier of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

Contact:
James Bauer, (614) 292-3706; Bauer.362@osu.edu
(Email is the best way to contact Bauer.)

Emily Caldwell | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

Im Focus: Newly proposed reference datasets improve weather satellite data quality

UMD, NOAA collaboration demonstrates suitability of in-orbit datasets for weather satellite calibration

"Traffic and weather, together on the hour!" blasts your local radio station, while your smartphone knows the weather halfway across the world. A network of...

Im Focus: Repairing defects in fiber-reinforced plastics more efficiently

Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are frequently used in the aeronautic and automobile industry. However, the repair of workpieces made of these composite materials is often less profitable than exchanging the part. In order to increase the lifetime of FRP parts and to make them more eco-efficient, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and the Apodius GmbH want to combine a new measuring device for fiber layer orientation with an innovative laser-based repair process.

Defects in FRP pieces may be production or operation-related. Whether or not repair is cost-effective depends on the geometry of the defective area, the tools...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Multiregional brain on a chip

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technology enables 5-D imaging in live animals, humans

16.01.2017 | Information Technology

Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter

16.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>