Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: carbon

  1. California’s Delta Poised to Become Massive Carbon Bank

    Leave a Comment

    Matt Weiser June 9 2017  Water Deeply  see full article here

    A newly certified carbon trading protocol could help solve a number of problems in the West’s largest estuary, including flood risk, water pollution, habitat loss and threats to a critical freshwater supply.

    The largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the Delta is a network of some 70 islands protected by more than 1,000 miles of levees. The soil on these islands is some of the richest farmland in the world because it is composed of organic material: decaying plants that accumulated over millennia.

    But when the levees were built 150 years ago to create farms, this dried out the soil, causing it to oxidize and decompose. As a result, the surface of many islands has slowly sunk below sea level. This results in a stronger leverage force on the levees, making them more vulnerable to failure. That’s a problem because the Delta is also the source of freshwater for 25 million Californians and more than 3 million acres of farmland. If numerous islands flooded due to levee failures, seawater could rush into the estuary and compromise the freshwater supply…

    Campbell Ingram: For every inch of elevation that you don’t lose in a given year due to ongoing agricultural practices, you’re not increasing hydrologic pressure on the levee. And for every inch that you then accrete in elevation, you’re reducing that pressure. It’s a slow process, but it’s at least moving in the right direction.

    A wetland compared to a monoculture of corn is typically going to have higher biodiversity, more use by waterfowl and amphibians and giant garter snakes. You can have some water quality benefits. And obviously the greenhouse gas emissions reduction and subsidence reversal….

    The Air Resources Board recently put out their latest scoping plan, and in that they describe a target of 15,000 to 30,000 acres of managed wetlands in the Delta in the next 13 years. This is one of the best uses of the western Delta because of its importance to the water supply….

  2. Governor Jerry Brown heads to China to explore carbon trading markets merger

    Leave a Comment

    By Peter Henderson | SAN FRANCISCO June 2 2017 Reuters  full article here

    California Governor Jerry Brown said on Thursday he will discuss merging carbon trading markets in his state and China when he travels to Asia later this week, a sign of the governor’s ambition to influence global climate change policy.

    Brown discussed his plans in a telephone interview after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, a global agreement to fight climate change. The move fulfilled a major Trump campaign pledge, but drew condemnation from U.S. allies and business leaders.

    Brown, who vigorously opposes the United States’ withdrawal from the pact, lambasted Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord as “insane.”

    He has been working with states and provinces around the world to set voluntary agreements to address global warming. The governor heads to China on Friday for meetings focused on climate change.

    California has the largest carbon trading system in the United States and has frequently hosted officials from China, which has launched seven pilot regional trading schemes.

    China also plans to roll out a nationwide market later this year, but the launch faces possible delays amid unreliable data and other regulatory problems, according to a government researcher.

    California’s system, which is known as “cap and trade,” is already linked to Canada’s Quebec market….

     

  3. Artificial wetland atop Dutch toxic landfill site is now capturing and storing carbon

    Leave a Comment

    Posted: 31 May 2017 06:22 AM PDT  full article here at ScienceDaily

    Precise carbon measurements indicate that peat is already being formed at the Volgermeerpolder near Amsterdam (NL), a toxic waste landfill site that was capped with foil with an artificial wetland on top. The new peat will offer an extra layer of protection against the poisonous and toxic waste in the future….

    ….According to the researchers the results are not only applicable to cap polluted land, but also for the capturing and storage of greenhouse gases through new peat formation and preventing subsidence which is not only an issue in bog mires in the Netherlands, but also presents a problem in places such as Venice, Florida, and Southeast Asia.

    Sarah F. Harpenslager, Ciska C. Overbeek, Jeroen P. van Zuidam, Jan G.M. Roelofs, Sarian Kosten, Leon P.M. Lamers. Peat capping: Natural capping of wet landfills by peat formation. Ecological Engineering, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2017.04.040

  4. Carbon tax needed to avoid climate catastrophe, say experts

    Leave a Comment

    A group of leading economists warned on Monday that the world risks catastrophic global warming in just 13 years unless countries ramp up taxes on carbon emissions to as much as $100 (£77) per metric tonne.

    Experts including Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said governments needed to move quickly to tackle polluting industries with a tax on carbon dioxide at $40-$80 per tonne by 2020.

    A tax of $100 a tonne would be needed by 2030 as one of a series of measures to prevent a rise in global temperatures of 2C. In a report by the High Level Commission on Carbon Prices, which is backed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, they suggest poor countries could aim for a lower tax since their economies are more vulnerable….

    Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 5.17.45 PM.pnghttps://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/report-of-the-highlevel-commission-on-carbon-prices/

     

  5. Ocean acidification reduces shell formation in tiny foraminifera indicating big changes to global carbon cycle

    Leave a Comment
    May 25, 2017 University of California – Davis Bodega Marine Lab    ScienceDaily
    … For the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists raised foraminifera — single-celled organisms about the size of a grain of sand — at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory under future, high CO2 conditions. These tiny organisms, commonly called “forams,” are ubiquitous in marine environments and play a key role in food webs and the ocean carbon cycle….UC Davis scientists found that under high CO2, or more acidic, conditions, the foraminifera had trouble building their shells and making spines, an important feature of their shells….[and] showed signs of physiological stress, reducing their metabolism and slowing their respiration to undetectable levels.

    This is the first study of its kind to show the combined impact of shell building, spine repair, and physiological stress in foraminifera under high CO2 conditions. The study suggests that stressed and impaired foraminifera could indicate a larger scale disruption of carbon cycling in the ocean….

    …As a marine calcifier, foraminifera use calcium carbonate to build their shells, a process that plays an integral part in balancing the carbon cycle. Normally, healthy foraminifera calcify their shells and sink to the ocean floor after they die, taking the calcite with them. This moves alkalinity, which helps neutralize acidity, to the seafloor. When foraminifera calcify less, their ability to neutralize acidity also lessens, making the deep ocean more acidic. …”That acidified water from the deep will rise again. If we do something that acidifies the deep ocean, that affects atmospheric and ocean carbon dioxide concentrations on time scales of thousands of years.” [Catherine] Davis said the geologic record shows that such imbalances have occurred in the world’s oceans before, but only during times of major change. “This points to one of the longer time-scale effects of anthropogenic climate change that we don’t understand yet,” Davis said.

    …strong winds periodically push nutrient-rich water from the deep ocean up to the surface– Upwelling supports some of the planet’s most productive fisheries and ecosystems. But additional anthropogenic, or human-caused, CO2 in the system is expected to impact fisheries and coastal ecosystems…. UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory in Northern California is near one of the world’s most intense coastal upwelling areas. At times, it experiences conditions most of the ocean isn’t expected to experience for decades or hundreds of years.

    Seasonal upwelling means that we have an opportunity to study organisms in high CO2, acidic waters today — a window into how the ocean may look more often in the future,” said co-author Tessa Hill, an associate professor in earth and planetary sciences at UC Davis. “We might have expected that a species of foraminifera well-adapted to Northern California wouldn’t respond negatively to high CO2 conditions, but that expectation was wrong. This study provides insight into how an important marine calcifier may respond to future conditions, and send ripple effects through food webs and carbon cycling.”

    Catherine V. Davis, Emily B. Rivest, Tessa M. Hill, Brian Gaylord, Ann D. Russell, Eric Sanford. Ocean acidification compromises a planktic calcifier with implications for global carbon cycling. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-01530-9

    Abstract: ….We cultured a globally important calcifying marine plankter (the foraminifer, Globigerina bulloides) under an ecologically relevant range of seawater pH (7.5 to 8.3 total scale). Multiple metrics of calcification and physiological performance varied with pH. At pH > 8.0, increased calcification occurred without a concomitant rise in respiration rates. However, as pH declined from 8.0 to 7.5, calcification and oxygen consumption both decreased, suggesting a reduced ability to precipitate shell material accompanied by metabolic depression. Repair of spines, important for both buoyancy and feeding, was also reduced at pH < 7.7. The dependence of calcification, respiration, and spine repair on seawater pH suggests that foraminifera will likely be challenged by future ocean conditions. Furthermore, the nature of these effects has the potential to actuate changes in vertical transport of organic and inorganic carbon, perturbing feedbacks to regional and global marine carbon cycling. The biological impacts of seawater pH have additional, important implications for the use of foraminifera as paleoceanographic indicators.

  6. Changing climate could have devastating impacts on forest carbon storage

    Leave a Comment
    • mean loss of carbon from drought and fire impacted forests could equal losing 70% of CA’s 2010 total above ground biomass
    • strategies for reducing some fire risk include actively thinning forests to manage tree density and restoring surface fires
    • healthy ecosystems lead to cleaner, better regulated water flow to communities across the western United States
    May 25, 2017  University of New Mexico  full ScienceDaily article here
    Biologists have shown what could be a startling drop in the amount of carbon stored in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to projected climate change and wildfire events.

    ….roughly half of all human-emitted carbon is absorbed by vegetation and the ocean, and is stored through natural processes — something that helps limit our actual carbon impact on the atmosphere. The problem is, as forests begin to change, due to global warming and large scale fires, the amount of forest carbon uptake will decrease, accelerating the amount of human-made carbon making its way into the atmosphere.

    Our simulations in the Sierra Nevada show that the mean amount of carbon loss from the forests under these projections could be as large as 663 teragrams,” said Hurteau. “That’s equal to about 73 percent of the total above ground carbon stock estimated in California vegetation in 2010.”

    …The two factors that influence these findings are changes in climate and the likelihood of large scale forest fires. Because California is experiencing warmer and drier conditions due to global warming, certain tree species are not able to flourish across particular geographic regions like they once were. Less tree growth, means less carbon uptake in forests.

    The study also shows that wildfires will play a big role in the reduction of stored carbon. And while many of these incidents will occur naturally, Hurteau says we are, in part, to blame for their significance….

    …”We’ve been putting out fires for a hundred years, causing tree density to go way up. In the absence of fire that system has a lot more carbon stored in it,” explained Hurteau. “But, when you have these large fire events the amount of carbon stored in the system drops because it kills many of the trees. Whereas, in a forest that’s been maintained by regular forest fires, which is the natural ecological state, your total carbon at any given point in time can be lower but it stays more consistent.”

    …Hurteau says researchers have identified strategies for reducing some of the fire risk by actively thinning forests to manage tree density and restoring surface fires. It’s an idea that seems counterproductive until you consider how volatile these ecosystems are due to the risk of large scale fires that end up destroying hundreds of thousands of acres.

    …He says it’s not only for the benefit of nature but for all of us, since healthy ecosystems lead to cleaner, better regulated water flow to communities across the western United States.

    Shuang Liang, Matthew D. Hurteau, Anthony LeRoy Westerling. Potential decline in carbon carrying capacity under projected climate-wildfire interactions in the Sierra Nevada. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-02686-0

  7. How to make coastal habitats sequester even more carbon

    Leave a Comment

    Managing nutrient pollution, bioturbation and freshwater flows to increase blue carbon; Optimizing mangroves

    by | May 3, 2017  Anthropocene

    Of all the carbon buried in the floors of Earth’s oceans, most of it is found in the narrow strip of tidal marshes, seagrass beds, and mangroves along their edge. Known as blue carbon ecosystems, these vegetated coastal habitats “occupy only 0.2% of the ocean surface, yet contribute 50% of the total amount of carbon buried in marine sediments,” write researchers, led by Deakin University ecologist Peter Macreadie, in the journal Frontiers in Ecology in the Environment. Meter for meter, they’re some of the most effective carbon storage systems we have. But could people make them even more effective?

    Macreadie and colleagues pose that question, noting that present attentions are focused mostly on protection and restoration—which are unquestionably important, as roughly half of all vegetated coastal habitats have been lost to development, sea level rise, and extreme weather events. But even more is possible. Optimizing existing blue carbon ecosystems offers “the potential to profoundly alter carbon accumulation and retention,” write the researchers, “providing new and previously undervalued strategies for mitigating climate change.”

    The researchers focus on three key environmental processes that control carbon breakdown and sequestration in these habitats. The first is nutrient pollution, especially nitrogen and phosphorus released from agricultural fertilizers and sewage, which leads to microbe and algae population shifts that reduce the amount of carbon stored by ecosystems….

    The second process is bioturbation, or the disturbance of sediments by shrimp, worms, crabs, and other organisms. Bioturbation sets off a cascade of other processes, and when bioturbators are present at relatively low densities, they enhance carbon storage. But at high densities, the opposite is true….

    Lastly the researchers discuss freshwater flows around the estuaries and coastal rivers where most vegetated coastal habitats are found. When unimpeded, these flows deliver carbon-rich inland sediments that are quickly buried by successive deposits, allowing sediment to rapidly lock up carbon.….

    Macreadie et al. “Can we manage coastal ecosystems to sequester more blue carbon?Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2017.

    ABSTRACT: To promote the sequestration of blue carbon, resource managers rely on best-management practices that have historically included protecting and restoring vegetated coastal habitats (seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves), but are now beginning to incorporate catchment-level approaches. Drawing upon knowledge from a broad range of environmental variables that influence blue carbon sequestration, including warming, carbon dioxide levels, water depth, nutrients, runoff, bioturbation, physical disturbances, and tidal exchange, we discuss three potential management strategies that hold promise for optimizing coastal blue carbon sequestration: (1) reducing anthropogenic nutrient inputs, (2) reinstating top-down control of bioturbator populations, and (3) restoring hydrology. By means of case studies, we explore how these three strategies can minimize blue carbon losses and maximize gains. A key research priority is to more accurately quantify the impacts of these strategies on atmospheric greenhouse-gas emissions in different settings at landscape scales.

  8. New model for improving batteries that last longer and are much smaller

    Leave a Comment

    Stanford scientist’s new approach may accelerate design of high-power batteries April 6, 2017 Stanford News

    In work published this week in Applied Physics Letters, the researchers describe a mathematical model for designing new materials for storing electricity. The model could be a huge benefit to chemists and materials scientists, who traditionally rely on trial and error to create new materials for batteries and capacitors. Advancing new materials for energy storage is an important step toward reducing carbon emissions in the transportation and electricity sectors.

    The potential here is that you could build batteries that last much longer and make them much smaller,” said study co-author Daniel Tartakovsky, a professor in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. …

    ….One of the primary obstacles to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables is the ability to store energy for later use, such as during hours when the sun is not shining in the case of solar power. Demand for cheap, efficient storage has increased as more companies turn to renewable energy sources, which offer significant public health benefits.

    Tartakovsky hopes the new materials developed through this model will improve supercapacitors, a type of next-generation energy storage that could replace rechargeable batteries in high-tech devices like cellphones and electric vehicles. Supercapacitors combine the best of what is currently available for energy storage – batteries, which hold a lot of energy but charge slowly, and capacitors, which charge quickly but hold little energy. The materials must be able to withstand both high power and high energy to avoid breaking, exploding or catching fire.

    “Current batteries and other storage devices are a major bottleneck for transition to clean energy,” ….

  9. Oxygen-starved places such as marshes and in floodplains accumulate carbon

    Leave a Comment

    Shunned by microbes, organic carbon can resist breakdown in underground environments

    Posted: 01 May 2017 08:26 AM PDT

    Organic matter whose breakdown would yield only minimal energy for hungry microorganisms preferentially builds up in floodplains, illuminating a new mechanism of carbon sequestration, a new study reveals….

    …The soils and sediments beneath our feet can contain an astonishing amount of carbon — more than in all of the world’s plants and the atmosphere combined — and represents a significant potential source of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

    In a new study, Stanford scientists have uncovered a previously unknown mechanism that explains why microbes sometimes fail to break down all the plant and animal matter, leaving carbon underfoot. Understanding where, and how long, this buried organic matter lingers is crucial for scientists and policymakers to better predict and respond to climate change.

    In oxygen-starved places such as marshes and in floodplains, microorganisms do not equally break down all of the available organic matter, the study shows. Instead, carbon compounds that do not provide enough energy to be worthwhile for microorganisms to degrade end up accumulating. This passed-over carbon, however, does not necessarily stay locked away below ground in the long run. Being water soluble, the carbon can seep into nearby oxygen-rich waterways, where microbes readily consume it.

    To date, models of local ecosystems and broader climate change have failed to take into account this newfound carbon preservation mechanism, having focused chiefly on microbial enzymes and the availability of other elements for organic matter breakdown.

    Kristin Boye, Vincent Noël, Malak M. Tfaily, Sharon E. Bone, Kenneth H. Williams, John R. Bargar, Scott Fendorf. Thermodynamically controlled preservation of organic carbon in floodplains. Nature Geoscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2940

  10. Are the Paris soil carbon sequestration goals unrealistic? Need nitrogen too

    Leave a Comment

    Posted: 21 Apr 2017 06:17 AM PDT  full article here

    The goal to offset rises in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations by increasing soil carbon storage by 4 per mille (0.4%) per year is unrealistic, say scientists in a new article.

    To store additional carbon in the soil, you need other nutrients, such as nitrogen. “You cannot build a house with only a pile of bricks but no mortar. Similarly, you cannot produce soil organic matter with only carbon,” explains Kees Jan van Groenigen, co-author of the paper and senior lecturer at the University of Exeter. “You need enormous amounts of nitrogen, and it is unclear where that nitrogen would come from. For example, to store the quantity of carbon mentioned in the 4p1000 goals, you would need extra nitrogen equivalent to 75% of current nitrogen fertilizer production, and for it to be in the right places. Practically speaking, that is just impossible.

    Does that mean that we should abandon the 4p1000 goals? “Absolutely not,” says Jan Willem van Groenigen: “Let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater. The 4p1000 goals are a great inspiration to do everything we can as farmers, soil scientists, agronomists and policy makers to help fight global warming and at the same time improve our soils.” Instead, the authors appeal to the scientific community to think about the role of nutrients in reaching the 4p1000 goals. “For instance, this could mean that additional soil carbon should be stored in areas where nutrients are also available,” van Groenigen explains. “In other soils the best approach might be to focus on minimizing emissions of other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and methane.”

    Jan Willem van Groenigen, Chris van Kessel, Bruce A. Hungate, Oene Oenema, David S. Powlson, Kees Jan van Groenigen. Sequestering Soil Organic Carbon: A Nitrogen Dilemma. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b01427