The contribution of coastal margins to regional and global carbon budgets is not well understood, largely due to limited information about the magnitude, spatial distribution, and interannual variability of carbon sources and sinks in coastal waters. The Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (OCB) Program has been collaborating with the North American Carbon Program (NACP) over the past two years to develop a Coastal Interim Synthesis Activity as part of the NACP Interim Synthesis activities, the goals of which are to bring together relevant observations, data, and modeling efforts in an effort to identify and quantify key sources, sinks, stocks, fluxes, and associated processes in the North American carbon budget. The objective of the Coastal Interim Synthesis Activity is to synthesize individual, small-scale observational and modeling studies from different regions of the North American continental margin across broader spatial and temporal scales to improve quantitative assessments of the North American coastal carbon budget. Because the coastal oceans have important and complex linkages with terrestrial, atmospheric, and open ocean biogeochemical cycles, it is important to provide for the participation of researchers focused on both organic and inorganic carbon, as well as nitrogen and phosphorus cycle topics related to carbon balance and related issues such as hypoxia impacts on continental margins.
With support through this award to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), OCB scientists from WHOI, the University of Alaska - Fairbanks, and the University of South Florida will convene two workshops to facilitate data gathering and synthesis efforts related to coastal carbon budgets in five regions?East Coast (including Gulf of Maine), West Coast (including Gulf of Alaska), Gulf of Mexico, Arctic (including marginal seas such as the Bering, Chukchi, Beaufort, and Baffin-Labrador), and Great Lakes. Additional funding to support these efforts will be provided by NASA and NOAA.
Broader Impacts: Coastal margins represent a significant unknown in the North American carbon budget. By leveraging the shared community expertise of two leading U.S. carbon cycle science programs (NACP and OCB), this project will improve coastal carbon sink/source estimates and facilitate the community interaction needed to ensure a seamless transition between land and sea in our understanding of the most important processes driving the North American carbon cycle. The proposed approach convenes scientists with specialized knowledge of regionally important physical and biogeochemical processes to develop robust regional coastal carbon budgets that more effectively account for some of the inherent spatial and temporal variability of coastal systems. Another key outcome of this project will be a tremendously valuable historic dataset that will improve our understanding of the carbon cycle and inform public discussion and policy making on issues related to climate change, human health, and fisheries, all of which are intimately linked to carbon cycling. Recovery of these data and their incorporation into a publicly accessible data base will enhance the development of predictive models for coastal regions and also enable more comprehensive linkage of land, atmosphere, and ocean modeling of carbon dioxide and the carbon cycle. There are currently >50 years of observations in most U.S. coastal regions, providing much-needed historical context to monitor the health of coastal ocean ecosystems, which are becoming increasingly vulnerable to threats of ocean acidification, eutrophication, and hypoxia.
One of the major scientific foci for the Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (OCB) Program is coastal carbon cycling. The contribution of coastal margins to regional and global carbon budgets is not well understood, largely due to limited information about the magnitude, spatial distribution, and temporal variability of carbon sources and sinks in coastal waters. Ocean margins are characterized by intense geochemical and biological processing of carbon and other elements and are sites where large amounts of matter and energy are exchanged with the open ocean. The area-specific rates of productivity, biogeochemical cycling, carbon dioxide uptake and organic/inorganic matter sequestration are high in ocean margins, with as much as half of global new production occurring over continental shelves and slopes. However, the current lack of knowledge and understanding of biogeochemical processes occurring at ocean margins has left the processes largely unaccounted for in most previous global assessments of the oceanic carbon cycle. By leveraging the collective community expertise of two leading U.S. carbon cycle science programs (OCB and the North American Carbon Program, or NACP), this project has facilitated the cross-disciplinary dialog across the land-ocean continuum to Develop regional coastal carbon budgets with improved flux estimates across key interfaces based on literature searches, data rescue activities, and model development Improve our understanding of key processes driving the North American carbon cycle (sources and sinks) Identify remaining gaps in our understanding and ability to quantify and predict carbon fluxes in continental margin systems The CCARS activities represent the hard work of multiple scientists to assemble valuable coastal data sets and develop modeling tools to improve our understanding of the carbon cycle and inform public discussion and policy making on issues related to climate change, blue carbon, human health, and fisheries, all of which are intimately linked to carbon cycling. CCARS data sets will also contribute to a critical baseline understanding, against which to monitor the health of coastal ocean ecosystems that are becoming increasingly vulnerable to threats of ocean acidification, eutrophication, and hypoxia.