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US Carbon Cycle Science Plan (2011)

Page history last edited by Heather Benway 12 years, 5 months ago

U.S. Scientists call for integrated study of carbon cycle

by Wei-Jun Cai (Univ. of Georgia)


The carbon cycle science community in the United States has just finished its planning process for carbon cycle research for the upcoming decade.  This reassessment of the U.S. carbon cycle science priorities was initiated by the U.S. Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group (CCIWG) and Carbon Cycle Science Steering Group (CCSSG) in 2008.  This planning process is culminating in the publication of the new U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Plan.  The new Plan is intended to provide guidance for U.S. research efforts on the global carbon cycle for the next decade.


The Plan outlines priorities for research in carbon cycle science, including a substantial expansion in the scope of the field.  In addition to reaffirming the need for basic research and for continuing the current areas of research in carbon cycle science, the Plan outlines specific recommendations for new priorities.  First, with greenhouse-gas concentrations rising rapidly, active management of the global carbon cycle is increasingly urgent.  The plan outlines the need for carbon-cycle research on the efficacy and environmental consequences of carbon management policies, strategies, and technologies.  Second, because humans are an integral part of the carbon cycle, both through influences on “natural” systems and through direct emissions of greenhouse gases, study of the human elements of the carbon cycle must be more thoroughly integrated into the future research agenda. Third, the Plan recommends increased exploration of the direct impact of rising greenhouse gas concentrations and carbon-management decisions on ecosystems, species, and natural resources.  Finally, because decisions about the carbon cycle will inevitably be made with imperfect knowledge, the Plan emphasizes the need for a better understanding of uncertainly in all aspects of the global carbon cycle, and improved ways of conveying those uncertainties to policy and decision makers, as well as society at large. 


Carbon cycles in coastal zones including wetland vegetations and estuarine and continental shelf waters are an important component of global carbon cycle. Carbon cycling research in coastal zones has received much attention with many progresses in recent years but still lags behind those of the terrestrial and open ocean studies.  This document recognizes the important role of the coastal zone in coupling terrestrial and ocean systems and calls for a greatly improve carbon cycle research program in coastal zones in the following decade in the context of global carbon cycle.


Electronic copies of “A U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Plan” are available at http://www.carboncyclescience.gov/carbonplanning.php.  Printed copies or copies on CD can be requested from the U.S Carbon Cycle Science Program Office; contact Director Roger Hanson (rhanson@usgcrp.gov) or Program Coordinator Gyami Shrestha (gshrestha@usgcrp.gov).


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