Multi-Benefit Bio-Remedies
for the Climate's Carbon Ills

Where most CO2 can go and rightfully should be
Intro Notes on Carbon Science

Perfection vs. the Penguins: the Global Dilemma
True long-term solutions to carbon emissions and climate change will require radically sane new energy policies that prioritize conservation, sustainability, and clean renewable fuels. Unfortunately, there is scant political will for this transformation at present, and in the meantime to paraphrase a cliché, "the perfect is not only the enemy of the good, it may soon prove lethal to penguins and polar bears and rural peasants as well." Large-scale eco-restoration projects may not be the perfect answer, but they can sequester vast amounts of carbon and help buy us time to make the needed political and policy changes. The most benign and effective paths are suggested below.


Greenhouse Gas Level Hits Record High, March 22, 2004

The level of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, in the Earth's atmosphere has hit a record high, US government scientists have reported. The new data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also suggest that the rate of increase of the gas may have accelerated in the last two years. Carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are thought to be a principle cause of global warming.


NASA: Worsening Fall-off in Marine Photosynthesis and Ocean Productivity

Plant life in the world's oceans has become less productive since the early 1980s, absorbing less carbon, which may in turn impact the Earth's carbon cycle. Watson Gregg, a NASA GSFC researcher, finds that the oceans' net primary productivity (NPP) has declined more than 6 percent globally over the last two decades [and over 20% since the 1950s], possibly as a result of climatic changes. NPP is the rate at which plant cells take in CO2 during photosynthesis, using the carbon for growth.

"This research shows ocean primary productivity is declining, and it may be a result of climate changes such as increased temperatures and decreased iron deposition into parts of the oceans. This has major implications for the global carbon cycle," Gregg said. Iron from trans-continental dust clouds is an important nutrient for phytoplankton, and when lacking can keep populations from growing.

See also "Decline in Oceans' Phytoplankton Alarms Scientists,"
San Francisco Chronicle, October 6, 2003

Spring phytoplankton bloom off Alaska fed by recent storms.
Excerpt: "The plankton of the seas are a major "sink" for the extra carbon dioxide emitted in the combustion of fossil fuels... The loss of natural plankton productivity in the oceans also means the loss of an important factor in removing much of the principal greenhouse gas that has caused the world's climate to warm for the past century or more.

"This research shows that ocean primary productivity is declining, and it may be the result of climate changes such as increased temperatures and decreased iron deposition into parts of the oceans," Gregg said. "This has major implications for the global carbon cycle."


- Where Planktos Ocean Carbon Goes to Retire

Marine Snow
Marine snow is a mucopolysaccharide matrix in which living and dead organisms are embedded... Marine snow is especially abundant during periods of high photosynthetic activity when up to 80% of the photosynthetically produced carbon may be excreted as dissolved organic matter.

One of the first photographs of a sediment trap sample shows cylindrical fecal pellets and other aggregates, planktonic tests (round white objects), transparent snail-like pteropod shells, radiolarians, and diatoms. The first deep-sea sediment trap was recovered on February 20, 1977, from 5,367 meters on the Sohm Abyssal Plain in the Sargasso Sea. As Susumu Honjo and colleagues viewed the samples under a microscope, they confirmed a theory and began to solve the mystery of how benthic animals receive nourishment from surface waters in "packages" that descend through the water column. Photo by Susumu Honjo.

Click for 700 fathom "marine snow" video

Census researchers were surprised to find extremely heavy amounts of falling material called "marine snow" at depths to 2000-4500 m during submersible dives to the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in June 2003. Video courtesy of Michael Vecchione, NOAA Fisheries Systematics Lab at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Facilitating ocean carbon research and carbon credit certification

NASA Development May Help Solve Ocean Biology Problem
February 11, 2005

NASA and university scientists have made a breakthrough in using satellites to study the tiny, free-floating ocean plants, called phytoplankton. The plants form the base of the ocean food chain and produce half of the oxygen in the air we breathe... Data about the growth rate of the ocean plants can be derived from space and incorporated into global estimates of their life processes... Despite their minute size, the growth and photosynthesis of phytoplankton collectively accounts for half of the carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, absorbed annually from Earth's atmosphere by plants.

NASA satellite data capture a big climate effect on tiny ocean life
June 23, 2005

El Niño and La Niña play with the populations of microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton. That's what scientists have found using NASA satellite data and a computer model. Phytoplankton are the base of the marine food chain, providing food for little sea animals called zooplankton, which in turn feed fish and other creatures. Any change in phytoplankton numbers alters the ocean food chain.


Deforestation on the Amazon River: 1975 (left) - 1986 (rigth). (LANDSAT Pathfinder satellite images)

Forest Cover Shrinking
Earth Policy Institute, March 2003

Excerpts: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization conservatively estimates that the world lost 94 million hectares of forest in the last decade of the twentieth century... Deforestation in tropical areas is accelerating, likely exceeding 13 million hectares each year. As tree cutting in many parts of the world accelerates, nearly half of the remaining forests are at risk. The World Resources Institute estimates that about 40 percent of the world's intact forests will be gone within 10-20 years, if not sooner, considering current deforestation rates.

Studies Measure Capacity of "Carbon Sinks"
National Geographic News, June 21, 2001

After years of wide disagreement, scientists are getting a better grip on how much carbon Earth's forests and other biological components suck out of the atmosphere, thus acting as "carbon sinks." New research in this area may be highly useful in efforts to devise international strategies to address global warming.