Manual Human Interactions with the Carbon Cycle: Summary of a Workshop

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Among others, next to the common goal of improving sustainable use of natural resources, as well as the will to cooperate with other conventions [2] , legislation and reporting to the Members through the Secretariats of the Conventions, we can also list the exchange of information and technical data, research and data collection, as exemplified in the section below. The issue of data collection and exchange is specifically referred to in the basic texts. While the points above clearly recognize the value and need of systematic observations, little is said about the parameters that are to be observed.

Countries are requested to make specific reports to the Conference of the Parties regarding the status of their national programmes for systematic observations. Additionally, a general description of programmememes for hydrological systems should be given. CCD stresses the need to systematically collect data in Article 10 National action programmes , the purpose of which is to identify the factors contributing to desertification and practical measures necessary to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

Under point This would help accomplish, inter alia, early warning and advance planning for periods of adverse climatic variation The article then proceeds with operational considerations such as networking institutions, facilitating the systematic observation and exchange of information, including the need for compatible standards and systems, and station geographic distribution. Needless to say, it is mainly biological information which is referred to under CBD, together with the abiotic factors which have a determining effect on biodiversity, legislation etc.

According to a World Conservation Monitoring Centre report [3] the information requirements fall into the four categories of ecosystems, species, genes and sites. The information relevant to the other Rio conventions fall mainly under the last category and include site details, ecology, land use, etc. It is clear from the section above that the three Conventions are bound to have different approaches in term of data collection, as this is linked with several factor such as:. Although CBD is global, the largest land biodiversity currently occurs in equatorial areas so that, in practice, many actions focus on low latitudes.

Not only, measures associated with CCD and CBD will be mostly ground parameters although some can be remotely sensed , while CCC will also resort to upper air measures. Things are different for CBD, but even more so for CCC where actions on literally any point of the earth can have repercussions everywhere else. The result is that the legal apparatus will be much more demanding on low-level data than for other conventions;.

As such, more quantitative information happens to be available for CCC than for the other Rio Conventions. Figure 1: interlinkages between the themes of the three Rio Conventions, water availability, land-use change and forestry. The arrows indicates driving variables. Note that population pressure constitutes a dominant factor for most forms of environmental degradation, and this includes such factors as poverty. Also note that the causes of climate change i. Listing common data and observation requirements is not easy. We can consider that, given the more encompassing nature of climate and CCC, most observations under CCC will also be relevant for the other Conventions.

There is also an obvious need for the Secretariats of the Conventions to increase concertation of their efforts in data collection. The geographic scale will be mostly very detailed, and the frequency of observations will be directly linked with the intensity of the factors affecting the environments under consideration: low years for areas undergoing little apparent changes, high whenever there is an ascertained or potential factor reducing biodiversity monthly.

Very short sampling frequencies are usually not required, and the month and longer is probably appropriate for most observations under CCD. Systematic observations will focus on the cold and warm dry areas.

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With the exception of the detailed biological analyses required by CBD and to some extent, by CCD , as well as the exception of detailed soil observations needed by CCD, it is safe to assume that the observations under CCC will encompass those needed by the other Rio Conventions. To summarize the bullets above, we can tentatively categorize the joint observation requirements of the Rio Conventions as follows:. Interestingly, carbon is highly relevant to all Rio conventions.

When considered under CBD, it carries much information on soil biodiversity, and the fluxes are linked to the intensity of the biological processes occurring in the ecosystems. For CCD, spatial and temporal variations of soil carbon provide a major indicator of soil resilience against degradation processes, soil biological activity as well as degradation itself [7]. Unfortunately, beyond the recognition of the relevance of systematic observations there is little coordination between the Conventions as yet regarding operational details. It appears that CCC is the most advanced convention in terms of 1 existing background observations and networks e.

However, there are no clear data requirements at this time. Until then, there is no way to predict what information will be needed. Instead, we can only speculate, based on the ambiguous language of the Kyoto Accords.

The Carbon Cycle

Deforestation reflects a change in land use e. Note then that detection of changed land cover e. However, the FAO definition i. Hence, the FAO definition would be much easier to implement in a remotely-sensed observations system, as there is no need to verify on the ground whether forest management was involved in any measured change. There is still the need to verify whether forest cover loss is directly human induced or not. A carbon density definition e. Introduction of remotely-sensed carbon densities must be a high priority for instrument development, however, if the Annex II countries are to be included in Kyoto land estimates which would be permitted by the Accords Article 6 carbon trading.

Finally, it must be remembered that a land administration land use definition could be implemented with little or no requirement for carbon observations. Here, land could simply be defined by governments as forest land use or not; if forested whether or not forests actually existed , annual losses of forest to deforestation and gains to regeneration could be reported on a national level. Average above and below ground carbon measured at several sites could be used to calculate carbon per unit area. Indeed, FAO now has the data bases measurements at 5 or year intervals, defined as per annum values to do so, including subdivisions of deforested land, reforested land, harvested land, etc.

They also have the statistics needed to transform the areal estimates into carbon values based on volume measures. In sum, the range of possible carbon observation requirements is very wide, although it appears to include estimates of canopy cover at 0. These interactions can strongly influence regional climate, food supply, and quality of the environment. At least two major factors govern the level of terrestrial carbon storage and flux. There are several prominent but poorly understood features of the global carbon cycle that justify the effort to better observe changes on regional-to-global levels, through cooperation of the international scientific community.

However, direct observational evidence is incomplete and the proposed source-sink mechanisms are highly controversial. Owing to the scope and complexity of the problem, study of the terrestrial carbon cycle is carried out commonly using computer simulation models. Models are used to interpret field data, test theories about flux mechanisms, and make predictions of the future carbon cycle. The complexity of carbon cycle models requires vast amounts of timely data assimilation from different observational sources over a relatively long period, supported by advanced data and information systems.

Many ecosystem carbon modeling procedures have strong links to field experiments, which help focus the experiments and aid in analysis of observations. Observational and experimental data assimilation and retrieval techniques are used to characterize sensitivity of model errors. Major obstacles to studies of the carbon cycle continue to be our limited ability to observe the spatial and temporal distribution of the principal global sources and sinks.

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Recent application of three dimensional oceanic and atmospheric general circulation models to our study of the carbon cycle offer the possibility of dramatic improvement in our ability to identify, understand, and predict the principal sources and sinks. This type of ENSO event would reduce photosynthetic uptake by land plants, and modify the balance between uptake and decay of organic matter in soils, temporarily favoring the latter source flux.

Based on preliminary comparisons, there are some interesting differences within and between the two types of predictions for NBP over time, including temporal offsets of at least six months one way or the other, and different flux magnitudes during strong ENSO events. For detecting potential changes in terrestrial ecosystems over the past 20 years, satellite observations of vegetation greenness have been used to monitor the duration of the active rowing season for terrestrial vegetation.

These satellite observations also appear to be consistent with an increase in amplitude of the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO 2 since the early s.

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Zonal discrimination of model results implies that the northern hemisphere low-latitudes could account for large decreases in global terrestrial net primary production NPP. N has been the principal region driving progressive increases in NPP, mainly by an expanded growing season moving toward the zonal latitude extremes.

In many cases, variability in seasonal precipitation controls the NEP of carbon on a yearly basis. Several noteworthy enhancements in the global observing systems are of utmost importance for improving the reliability of terrestrial ecosystem carbon models:. Continuity and integration of satellite observations for key land surface parameters, such as leaf area and fraction absorbed of photosynthetically active radiation FPAR , plus annual areas of forest clearing and regrowing.

Accurately interpolated precipitation fields for model drivers, at daily and monthly time intervals. Understanding the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on processes represented in ecosystem carbon models. Improvement of remote and near-sensing technologies for vegetation biomass and forest stand structural attributes. Integrating results from elevated CO 2 experiments into scalable algorithms at the ecosystem level, including below-ground responses. Understanding the effects of early spring thaw and late season freeze on processes represented in cold ecosystem carbon models.

Figure 1. NASA-CASA model estimate solid line of global ecosystem carbon exchange with the atmosphere, compared to terrestrial biosphere flux of carbon recomputed from isotopic deconvolution data Keeling et al. Running month totals are plotted. Positive yearly mean values represent a net source flux from the biosphere to the atmosphere, whereas negative yearly values represent a net sink flux into the biosphere from the atmosphere. Its principal responsibilities are to plan, formulate and design a long-term systematic observing system for those terrestrial properties that control the physical, biological and chemical processes affecting climate, are affected by climate change, serve as indicators of climate change, or are essential to provide information concerning the impact of climate and climate change and to contribute to the implementation of such an observing system.

Human interactions with the carbon cycle : summary of a workshop

TOPC is composed of scientists from various continents and representing the principal domains of the terrestrial environment. A principal task addressed by TOPC has been the design for global terrestrial observations. The revised plan GCOS, considered the scientific and policy issues regarding the role of climate for terrestrial biosphere, hydrology, and cryosphere. Based on these, observation requirements were specified, and approximately 70 variables described in terms of observation needs, spatial and temporal resolution, observation methods, and other aspects.

These requirements were to cover all the important issues, and thus are not necessarily optimised for a specific purpose such as terrestrial carbon. However, the global carbon cycle is one of the important issues considered and thus the results of TOPC analysis are relevant; in addition, the analysis provides a context for the relations between carbon and other climate change-related observation requirements.

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This note therefore briefly summarizes some aspects of the TOPC analysis thought relevant to global terrestrial carbon observations. The key issue considered by TOPC with respect to the terrestrial carbon was climate impact on the biosphere and feedbacks to climate. Climate affects the distribution and productivity C uptake of vegetation, together with the vegetation influences carbon in soils, and also affects the feedback from the two pools to climate.

These interactions take place at various spatial and temporal scales. Locally, soil, topography and land use history combine to determine productivity and distribution of vegetation and the land use options. Since biogeochemical cycling is strongly influenced by climate, this constitutes one of the major avenues for both impacts and feedbacks.