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Rising Carbon Dioxide’s effects on Land and Ocean

Event Type: 
Tuesday, March 5, 2019

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm ET

Speaker: Sarah Cooley, Director, Ocean Acidification Program at Ocean Conservancy. Presenting remotely.

Co-Author: David Moore, Associate Professor, University of Arizona 

Sponsors: U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program Office/UCAR and NOAA's National Ocean Service Science Seminar; coordinators are Gyami Shrestha (, &

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Abstract: Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) has decreased seawater pH at long-term observing stations around the world, driving ocean acidification that has already affected some marine species and altered fundamental ecosystem processes. Further effects are likely. While atmospheric CO2 rises at approximately the same rate all over the globe, its non-climate effects on land vary depending on climate and dominant species. In terrestrial ecosystems, rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are expected to increase plant photosynthesis, growth, and water-use efficiency, though these effects are reduced when nutrients, drought or other factors limit plant growth. Rising CO2 would likely change carbon storage and influence terrestrial hydrology and biogeochemical cycling, but concomitant effects on vegetation composition and nutrient feedbacks are challenging to predict, making decadal forecasts uncertain. Consequences of rising atmospheric CO2 are expected to include difficult-to-predict changes in the ecosystem services that terrestrial and ocean systems provide to humans. Continued persistence of uptake of carbon by the land and ocean is uncertain. Climate and environmental change create complex feedbacks to the carbon cycle and it is not clear how feedbacks modulate future effects of rising CO2 on carbon sinks. These are several mechanisms that could reduce future sink capacity.

About the Speakers: 
Sarah Cooley is the Director of the Ocean Acidification Program at Ocean Conservancy, in Washington DC. Prior to 2014, she was a researcher and postdoctoral investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), as well as the ocean acidification scientist in the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program Project Office.Sarah's guiding interests include ocean carbon cycling, science communication, and incorporating accurate ocean science knowledge into policy. In her position at Ocean Conservancy, Sarah works to educate and engage decision-makers and stakeholders from every political perspective at regional to international levels on ocean acidification, identifying ways that different groups can take concrete, stepwise action on the issue. In her work, Sarah combines science synthesis, strategic communications, political strategy and advocacy, and public advocacy. 

David Moore: TBD

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