Research Topic

The Marine Carbon Cycle: From Ancient Storage to Future Challenges

About this Research Topic

The oceans absorb about 31% of anthropogenic emissions of CO2, and therefore represent an important buffer, helping to reduce the rate of build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The deep ocean also constitutes by far the largest carbon reservoir in Earth’s surface environment and is predicted to absorb most of the excess fossil-fuel derived carbon that is currently being emitted through industrial processes. However, this will only happen after an equilibration process that may take millennia. Meanwhile, the excess atmospheric CO2 is only partially buffered by ocean and land sinks, and the actual concentration trajectory of atmospheric CO2 and methane depends on complex processes involving biological, chemical and physical processes both within the reservoirs and at the boundaries between them. Understanding the oceanic carbon cycle, its dynamics, historical and future trajectories is therefore key to our ability to model future climate change.

The second Shackleton conference, held in September 2019 at the Geological Society of London, and organized by the Marine Studies Group of the GSL, focused on oceanic carbon storage, specifically the dynamic processes by which carbon is permanently removed from the atmosphere and/or the terrestrial lithosphere and biosphere and stored in the deep ocean and within ocean sediments. In addition to the natural background processes by which carbon is stored in marine sedimentary and water column reservoirs, the conference addressed evolving technologies for removing CO2 directly from industrial processes and storing it in natural or built reservoirs, the process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS). The primary focus of the conference was to explore the storage processes and ultimate fate of carbon in the various Earth reservoirs, both in the present day and over the geological past.

Here, we are calling for contributions to the Biogeoscience and Sedimentology, Stratigraphy and Diagenesis sections of Frontiers in Earth Science. Manuscripts should be based around the four session topics into which the conference talks were divided:

1. Carbon storage dynamics in the past: This strand will cover evidence from the palaeorecord (e.g. corals, marine sediment cores and ice cores) related to the dynamics of carbon removal and storage in the deep ocean and in marine sediments, over major climate transitions and during the long intervening periods of climatic stasis.

2. Carbon movement and storage at Earth’s surface: This includes research into the processes involved as carbon is removed from terrestrial and atmospheric reservoirs and transferred into the deep ocean and ocean sediments. Processes include the fluvial transfer of carbon from the lithosphere (chemical and physical weathering) and terrestrial biosphere to marine sediments, and the surface ocean-atmosphere carbon budget.

3. Carbon capture and storage and other geoengineering techniques: In the context of the unique present-day human influence on the carbon cycle, here we invite contributions related to geoengineering techniques aimed at minimizing or reversing the build-up of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In particular, this includes techniques for CCS, including the removal of CO2 during industrial processes and its safe storage in geologic formations beneath the seabed. Other geoengineering techniques based on CO2 removal could be addressed in this strand, for example ocean alkalinity enhancement and iron fertilization. Submissions related to this point should be directed to the Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilization section within Frontiers in Energy Research.

4. Carbon dynamics in marine sediment: This strand covers the complex carbon cycling processes that take place at the seafloor and within marine subsurface sediments. This strand also addresses our understanding of how specific climatic or depositional conditions, both in modern oceans and in palaeoceans, can affect the degradation and preservation of organic carbon.


Keywords: Marine Carbon, Carbon Cycle, Carbon Sequestration, CCS, Greenhouse Gases


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The oceans absorb about 31% of anthropogenic emissions of CO2, and therefore represent an important buffer, helping to reduce the rate of build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The deep ocean also constitutes by far the largest carbon reservoir in Earth’s surface environment and is predicted to absorb most of the excess fossil-fuel derived carbon that is currently being emitted through industrial processes. However, this will only happen after an equilibration process that may take millennia. Meanwhile, the excess atmospheric CO2 is only partially buffered by ocean and land sinks, and the actual concentration trajectory of atmospheric CO2 and methane depends on complex processes involving biological, chemical and physical processes both within the reservoirs and at the boundaries between them. Understanding the oceanic carbon cycle, its dynamics, historical and future trajectories is therefore key to our ability to model future climate change.

The second Shackleton conference, held in September 2019 at the Geological Society of London, and organized by the Marine Studies Group of the GSL, focused on oceanic carbon storage, specifically the dynamic processes by which carbon is permanently removed from the atmosphere and/or the terrestrial lithosphere and biosphere and stored in the deep ocean and within ocean sediments. In addition to the natural background processes by which carbon is stored in marine sedimentary and water column reservoirs, the conference addressed evolving technologies for removing CO2 directly from industrial processes and storing it in natural or built reservoirs, the process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS). The primary focus of the conference was to explore the storage processes and ultimate fate of carbon in the various Earth reservoirs, both in the present day and over the geological past.

Here, we are calling for contributions to the Biogeoscience and Sedimentology, Stratigraphy and Diagenesis sections of Frontiers in Earth Science. Manuscripts should be based around the four session topics into which the conference talks were divided:

1. Carbon storage dynamics in the past: This strand will cover evidence from the palaeorecord (e.g. corals, marine sediment cores and ice cores) related to the dynamics of carbon removal and storage in the deep ocean and in marine sediments, over major climate transitions and during the long intervening periods of climatic stasis.

2. Carbon movement and storage at Earth’s surface: This includes research into the processes involved as carbon is removed from terrestrial and atmospheric reservoirs and transferred into the deep ocean and ocean sediments. Processes include the fluvial transfer of carbon from the lithosphere (chemical and physical weathering) and terrestrial biosphere to marine sediments, and the surface ocean-atmosphere carbon budget.

3. Carbon capture and storage and other geoengineering techniques: In the context of the unique present-day human influence on the carbon cycle, here we invite contributions related to geoengineering techniques aimed at minimizing or reversing the build-up of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In particular, this includes techniques for CCS, including the removal of CO2 during industrial processes and its safe storage in geologic formations beneath the seabed. Other geoengineering techniques based on CO2 removal could be addressed in this strand, for example ocean alkalinity enhancement and iron fertilization. Submissions related to this point should be directed to the Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilization section within Frontiers in Energy Research.

4. Carbon dynamics in marine sediment: This strand covers the complex carbon cycling processes that take place at the seafloor and within marine subsurface sediments. This strand also addresses our understanding of how specific climatic or depositional conditions, both in modern oceans and in palaeoceans, can affect the degradation and preservation of organic carbon.


Keywords: Marine Carbon, Carbon Cycle, Carbon Sequestration, CCS, Greenhouse Gases


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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