Carbon dioxide, when released by the burning of fossil fuels, forest fires, or other activities, is a major "greenhouse gas" and factor in global warming. But vegetation, mostly in the form of growing evergreen and deciduous forests, can play an important role in absorbing some of the excess carbon dioxide.
Such information is important to understand global climate issues and develop policies, the researchers noted. This study examined the carbon budget in the U.S. from 2001 to 2006. Also playing a key role in the analysis was the PRISM climate database at OSU, a sophisticated system to monitor weather on a very localized and specific basis.
The period from 2001-06, the researchers noted, had some catastrophic and unusual events, not the least of which was Hurricane Katrina and the massive destruction it caused. It also factored in the 2002 Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon, one of the largest forest fires in modern U.S. history.
The research found that the temperate forests in the eastern U.S. absorbed carbon mainly because of forest regrowth following the abandonment of agricultural lands, while some areas of the Pacific Northwest assimilated carbon during much of the year because of the region's mild climate.
Crop lands were not considered in determining the annual magnitude of the U.S. terrestrial carbon sink, because the carbon they absorb each year during growth will be soon released when the crops are harvested or their biomass burned.
"Our results show that U.S. ecosystems play an important role in slowing down the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphe
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Oregon State University