Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems

Scince cover
Cover of the Science, which included a feature on how NASA measures carbon from space.

Earth Science research at JPL on the carbon cycle and ecosystems focuses on carbon cycle-climate interactions, impacts of climate on ecosystem structure, function, and composition, as well as on disturbance processes, such as wildfire.  Researchers study tropical drought effects, warming and changes in permafrost regions, land use change, effects of ocean climate variability on marine biology and biogeochemistry, terrestrial-marine interactions in the coastal zone, greenhouse gas emissions from cities and energy systems and the consequences of functional diversity for ecosystems on land and in the sea.


Current Challenges

Key science questions we are focused on addressing include:

  • What is the primary productivity of the globe and what controls it? 
  • How much carbon does the biosphere store and how could it change? 
  • How does direct human exploitation of the biosphere affect productivity and carbon storage?
  • How does human infrastructure affect and respond to the Earth System?
  • What are the roles of the two poles of the carbon cycle, the tropics and the arctic in changing atmospheric CO2?
  • What is the biological diversity of the world and how does it affect the function and stability of ecosystems?