"Although it covers a relatively small area," says Friedrichs, "the coastal ocean is a highly productive ecosystem with much greater carbon fluxes than the open ocean. It's also directly influenced by human activities such as nutrient pollution, fishing, dredging, shoreline armoring, levee construction, and dam building."
The workshop was successful because a diverse group of scientists came together to share specialized knowledge about the different parts of the East Coast's carbon cycle. "What we found at the workshop," Najjar says, "is that there are many scientists with a lot of data and knowledge about individual parts of the carbon cycle of the U.S. East Coast. However, until now, that knowledge had not been well integrated to form a big picture of how carbon flows in the region."
General scientific interest in the carbon cycle stems from concerns about increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In 2010, humans released 33.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities, while atmospheric levels of the gas rose to 391 parts per million, an increase of nearly 25% over the last 50 years. About a quarter of the carbon released to the atmosphere currently ends up in the ocean.
|Contact: David Malmquist|
Virginia Institute of Marine Science