The black carbon cycle and its role in the Earth system

Coppola, Alysha I., Wagner, Sasha, Lennartz, Sinikka T., Seidel, Michael, Ward, Nicholas D., Dittmar, Thorsten, Santín, Cristina and Jones, Matthew W. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3480-7980 (2022) The black carbon cycle and its role in the Earth system. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. ISSN 2662-138X

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Abstract

Black carbon (BC) is produced by incomplete combustion of biomass by wildfires and burning of fossil fuels. BC is environmentally persistent over centuries to millennia, sequestering carbon in marine and terrestrial environments. However, its production, storage and dynamics, and therefore its role in the broader carbon cycling during global change, are poorly understood. In this Review, we discuss BC cycling across the land-to-ocean continuum. Wildfires are the main source of BC, producing 128 ± 84 teragrams per year. Negative climate–BC feedbacks could arise as wildfire increases with anthropogenic warming, producing more BC, which in turn will sequester carbon, but the magnitude of these effects are unknown. Most BC is stored in terrestrial systems with some transported to the ocean via rivers and the atmosphere. However, the oceanic BC budget is not balanced, with known BC removal fluxes exceeding BC inputs. We demonstrate these observed inconsistencies using a simple ocean box model, which highlights key areas of future research. Measurements of BC mineralization and export rates along the land-to-ocean continuum and quantification of previously unexplored sources of oceanic BC are needed to close the global BC budget.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: A.I.C. acknowledges support from the Swiss National Science Ambizione grant ‘Fire in the Ocean’ (PZ00P2_185835) and thanks T. Eglinton, A. Varkalis and L. Tinkham. M.S. and T.D. acknowledge funding by the German Science Foundation (DFG) within the Cluster of Excellence EXC 2077 ‘The Ocean Floor — Earth’s Uncharted Interface’ (project number 390741603). N.D.W. acknowledges funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE)-funded COMPASS-FME project. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is operated by Battelle for the US DOE under contract DE-AC05-76RL01830. Additional support was provided by the National Science Foundation OCE #2017577 (to S.W.). M.W.J. was funded by an independent research fellowship from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) (grant NE/V01417X/1).
Uncontrolled Keywords: pollution,earth-surface processes,atmospheric science,nature and landscape conservation ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2300/2310
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2022 14:30
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2022 08:30
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/86091
DOI: 10.1038/s43017-022-00316-6

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