The Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Focus Area addresses the distribution and cycling of carbon among the land, ocean, and atmospheric reservoirs and ecosystems as they are affected by humans, as they change due to their own biogeochemistry, and as they interact with climate variations. The goals are to: quantify global productivity, biomass, carbon fluxes, and changes in land cover; document and understand how the global carbon cycle, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and land cover and use are changing; and provide useful projections of future changes in global carbon cycling and terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Throughout the next decade, research will be needed to advance our understanding of and ability to model human-ecosystems-climate interactions so that an integrated understanding of Earth System function can be applied to our goals. These research activities will yield knowledge of the Earth's ecosystems and carbon cycle, as well as projections of carbon cycle and ecosystem responses to global environmental change.
Examples of the types of forecasts that may be possible are: the outbreak and spread of harmful algal blooms, occurrence and spread of invasive exotic species, and productivity of forest and agricultural systems. This Focus Area also will contribute to the improvement of climate projections for 50-100 years into the future by providing key inputs for climate models. This includes projections of future atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentrations and understanding of key ecosystem and carbon cycle process controls on the climate system.
Both physical and biological processes in the ocean affect the carbon cycle. In addition, physical processes influence the net production of biological oceanography.