Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems

CCE detects, explains, and predicts changes in Earth’s ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, biodiversity, and land cover.

The Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems focus area (CCE) supports interdisciplinary research initiatives into Earth’s ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles, including how carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients are stored and cycled throughout the environment. CCE uses satellite remote sensing instruments, field campaigns, laboratory studies, and modeling to improve our understanding of how terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems around the world, such as forests, jungles, deserts, oceans, coasts, and polar environments, are changing over time. CCE also studies how changes in these ecosystems may affect how the planet stores nutrients like carbon and nitrogen in the future. Resolving these uncertainties will help us understand fluctuations in Earth’s climate and have major implications for biodiversity and sustainable resource management.

 

CCE Research Questions

CCE research addresses the following overarching questions:

Colorized map indicating carbon levels

How are ecosystems changing around the globe, and what mechanisms, processes, and feedbacks contribute to this change?

 

Photo of sea shore

How do air-sea, land-sea, and land-air interactions contribute to global climate change?

 

Satellite photo of hurricane

How do ecosystems, land cover, and biogeochemical cycles respond to and affect global environmental change?

 

Satellite image of land cover

What changes are occurring in global land cover and land use, what are their causes, and how do they affect ecosystems and society?

 

Satellite image of Africa

What is the current state of biodiversity across the globe and how does it change through time?

 

Photo of diatom

How are biological and biogeochemical regimes changing within marine and freshwater environments, what are their causes, and how will they affect society over time?

 

CCE Associated Missions

The table below lists the missions, campaigns, and instruments relevant to the Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems focus area in all phases.

Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems mission table

 

Learn more about CCE

 

Research Programs

Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems is split into four different research programs that help focus and advance our understanding of the Earth:

Biological Diversity Research Program

The Biological Diversity Research Program uses NASA observations and models to improve our understanding of biodiversity, including how and why it is changing, and its effects on and interactions with the Earth system. The Biological Diversity program explores patterns of biodiversity on land and in water using observations from satellites, airborne and seaborne platforms, and in-situ surveys. It works very closely with the Applied Sciences Ecological Forecasting Program to help predict and act upon the impacts of environmental change on ecosystems.

Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program

The Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program (LCLUC) uses remote sensing data from satellites and airborne campaigns to improve our understanding of how humans affect and interact with the terrestrial environment. LCLUC combines this data with knowledge from physical, social, and economic sciences to determine how this relationship influences global ecological sustainability, vulnerability, and resilience to facilitate global inventories of land-cover and land-use change and to predict their impacts on Earth’s systems and society. Key elements of the program include: monitoring and modeling how land cover and land use change over time and understanding how these changes affect Earth’s systems, biodiversity, environmental goods and services, and the management of natural resources.

Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program

The Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program (OBB) conducts research to better understand, describe, and predict the biological and biogeochemical regimes in marine and freshwater environments. OBB combines remote sensing data from satellites and suborbital assets with data from in-situ platforms like ships and buoys to determine the optical properties of different water bodies – or how sediments, nutrients, and organisms absorb, reflect, or refract light in the water column. This research helps determine how aquatic organisms, their habitats, and the biogeochemistry of marine and freshwater environments are changing over time. Understanding these changes is important for predicting, preparing for and mitigating against potential future effects on society and the planet.

Terrestrial Ecology Program

The Terrestrial Ecology Program (TE) researches fluctuations in global and regional carbon and nutrient cycles, including changes in the structure and overall function of land-based ecosystems. The program uses satellites, field campaigns, laboratory studies, and ecosystem and biogeochemical modeling to improve our understanding of the compositional makeup, productivity, and role of terrestrial ecosystems; their interactions with other Earth systems; and how they contribute to the cycling and storing of carbon and other nutrients. The program also focuses on the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems to disturbances like fires and insect epidemics, as well as to environmental changes like drought and floods.

Research Initiatives

Carbon Monitoring System

The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) is a congressionally mandated effort to better identify global carbon reservoirs and quantify their changes. To this end, CMS invests in research to characterize, quantify, and predict the evolution of regional and global carbon sources and sinks using airborne and satellite remote sensing to evaluate exchanges of carbon between the land and atmosphere and to monitor carbon stocks such as forests. A key function of CMS is the use of state-of-the-art science to develop prototype monitoring systems informed by interactions with potential and relevant stakehodlers.

North American Carbon Program

The North American Carbon Program (NACP) was established in 2010 as one of the major activities of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, an interagency body that coordinates and facilitates activities relevant to carbon cycle science, climate, and global changes issues. The scientific mission of NACP is to understand the amount and distribution of North American carbon sources and sinks both on land and in water to help produce consistent analyses of North America’s carbon budget and year-to-year variability.

Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry

The Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program (OCB) was established in 2006 as one of the major activities of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, an interagency body that coordinates and facilitates activities relevant to carbon cycle science, climate, and global change issues. The scientific mission of OCB is to study the evolving role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle, in the face of environmental variability and change through studies of marine biogeochemical cycles and associated ecosystems.

 

CCE News and Information

Tracking Peruvian Forest Loss from Space

Earth Observatory | April 19, 2019
Considered a hotspot for biodiversity, the Madre de Dios region of southeastern Peru is an exceptionally fertile landscape. Standing at the edge of the Amazon basin, Madre de Dios has a rich concentration of endemic species—plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world.

 

Return of Gedi’s First Data Reeals the Third Dimension of Forests

Earth Science News | April 15, 2019
From its perch aboard the International Space Station, GEDI's powerful lasers create detailed 3D maps of Earth’s forests and topography – providing innovative and unique spaceborne observations.

 

NASA’s OCO-3 Measures How Plants Grow – and Glow

Earth Science News | April 9, 2019
When plants take in too much energy, they don't get fat — they lighten up. They absorb more sunlight than they need to power photosynthesis, and they get rid of the excess solar energy by emitting it as a very faint glow.

 

CCE for Scientists

 

Scientific Meetings and Conferences

SBG Community Workshop
12-14 June 2019

Landsat Science Team Meeting
19-21 June 2019
Reno, Nevada

Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry Summer Workshop
24-27 June 2019
Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Research and Funding Opportunities

Solicited program elements relevant to CCE are publicized through the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) NASA Research Announcements (NRAs) on the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) website. Past, open, and future solicitations can be searched and viewed on NSPIRES.

2019 solicitations of interest to the CCE community:

 

NASA Research Resources, Associated Programs, and Partnerships

Access NASA data related to Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems and learn more about center-level CCE programs and partnerships at the links below:

Guiding and Planning Documents

 

 

NASA Center Programs

 

Interagency and International Partnerships

 

Contact CCE

 

CCE Focus Area Lead

Kathy Hibbard
Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Focus Area Lead

 

Biological Diversity Research Program

Woody Turner
Biological Diversity Research Program Manager

Keith Gaddis
Biological Diversity Research Program

 

Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program

Garik Gutman
Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program Manager

Krishna Vadrevu, NASA MSFC
Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program Coordinator

Chris Justice, U. Maryland
Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program Scientist

 

Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program

Paula Bontempi
Acting Deputy Director for the Earth Science Division
Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program Manager

Laura Lorenzoni
Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program

 

Terrestrial Ecology Program

Hank Margolis
Terrestrial Ecology Program Manager

Kathy Hibbard
Terrestrial Ecology Program

Mike Falkowski
Terrestrial Ecology Program