Tags: fjords | carbon | absorption | rate

Fjords' Carbon Absorption Rate Belies Their Size, Says Study

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:18 AM

Fjords, the long, deep and narrow bodies of water formed at high latitudes during glacial periods, are playing an important role in Earth's carbon cycle, a new study suggests.

Published in the journal Nature GeoScience on Monday, the study reported that while fjords covers less roughly 0.3 percent of the Earth's surface, they absorb 18 million tons of carbon each year, 11 percent of the total absorbed by marine sediment, according to Nature.

Irina Overeem, a sediment geologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Nature that fjords are ideal places for this kind of carbon absorption because they are often flanked by steep, forested peaks, putting them in the perfect position to collect the carbon-rich soils that run off the slopes.

Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air and use it to build roots, stems, trunks and leaves, reported Reuters, but when they die, the carbon either gets buried in soils, washed into rivers or released into the atmosphere as vegetation rots or burns.

Overseem said, though, fjords are difficult to research from the ground for several reasons.

"Many have no roads leading to them, so you can only get to them by helicopter," said Overeem. "You can't take samples when there is ice — and for some places, like Greenland, that is about nine months of the year."

Reuters reported that scientists have been working to better understand nature's ability to absorb carbon and to find ways to predict the impact of man-made greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuel in power plants, cars, homes and businesses.

"Despite being small, fiords are mighty," Richard Keil of the University of Washington wrote in a commentary in Nature Geoscience about the waterway's carbon absorbing ability. "Despite decades of effort, we still lack a full understanding of organic carbon burial."

The study's co-author, Candida Savage, of the University of Otago told the New Zealand Herald that during glacial retreats, fjords usually capture and prevent large volumes of organic carbon from flowing to the continental shelf, where chemical processes would have caused CO2 to be produced.

Savage said that when glaciers start advancing again, carbon trapped by the fjords would probably be pushed out onto the shelf, increasing CO2 production.

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Fjords, the long, deep and narrow bodies of water formed at high latitudes during glacial periods, are playing an important role in Earth's carbon cycle, a new study suggests.
fjords, carbon, absorption, rate
387
2015-18-05
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:18 AM
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