Selected Carbon Cycle Research Observations and Measurement Programs

AmeriFlux Network

Description: The AmeriFlux Network, a community of sites and scientists measuring ecosystem carbon, water, and energy fluxes across the Americas, is committed to producing and sharing high-quality eddy covariance data. AmeriFlux investigators and modelers work together to generate understanding of terrestrial ecosystems in a changing world.
Sponsoring agencies: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and many partners
Observation type: Surface network
Location: Western Hemisphere
Timeline: 1996 to present
More information:

Detrital Input and Removal Experiment (DIRT) Network

Description: The international DIRT network was established to assess how rates and sources of plant litter inputs control the long-term stability, accumulation, and chemical nature of soil organic matter in forested ecosystems over decadal time scales. Sites span climatic and soil gradients, with sampling occurring about every 10 years.
Sponsoring agencies: NSF and others
Observation type: Distributed field campaign
Location: United States and global
Timeline: 1956 to present
More information: URL

Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) Experiments

Description: FACE research technology creates a platform for multidisciplinary, ecosystem-scale research on the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations over extended periods of time. FACE technology is capable of providing a means by which the environment around growing plants may be modified to realistically simulate future concentrations of atmospheric CO2. FACE field data represent plant and ecosystem responses to concentrations of atmospheric CO2 in a natural setting possible during the next century.
Sponsoring agencies: DOE, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)
Observation type: Distributed field campaign
Location: United States and global
Timeline: 1994 to present
More information: URL and URL

Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)

Description: The FIA program provides statistically reliable quantitative estimates of forest area and ownership; species, volume, total tree growth, mortality, and removals; wood production and utilization rates; and forest carbon including soils. More than 150,000 forested sample plots are on non-federal lands. FIA measurements of forest carbon are the basis for U.S. reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for the annual monitoring of carbon in the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
Sponsoring agency: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service
Observation type: Distributed field campaign supplemented by remote sensing
Location: United States
Timeline: 1930 to present
More information: URL

Greenhouse gas Reduction through Agricultural Carbon Enhancement network (GRACEnet)

Description: GRACEnet is a research program initiated to better quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cropped and grazed soils under current management practices and to identify and further develop improved management practices that will enhance carbon sequestration in soils, decrease GHG emissions, promote sustainability, and provide a sound scientific basis for carbon credits and GHG trading programs. This program generates information needed by agroecosystem modelers, producers, program managers, and policymakers. Coordinated multilocation field studies follow standardized protocols to compare 1) net emissions of GHGs including CO2, nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4); 2) carbon sequestration; 3) crop and forage yields; and 4) broad environmental benefits under different management systems. These systems typify existing production practices, maximize carbon sequestration, minimize net GHG emissions, and meet sustainable production and broad environmental benefit goals (e.g., carbon sequestration; net GHG emissions; and water, air, and soil quality). The data are accessible through a Geospatial Portal for Scientific Research (GPSR) application that is an ongoing effort of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to increase the availability of research data to the broader scientific community. The data contained within this application represent complex relationships of data among hundreds of scientific measurements.
Sponsoring agency: USDA ARS
Observation type: Field campaign
Location: United States
Timeline: 2003 to present
More information: URL and URL

Gridded Soil Survey Geographic (gSSURGO) Database

Description: The gSSURGO database is the most detailed level of soil geographic data developed by the National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) in accordance with NCSS mapping standards and at a variety of map scales. The three soil geographic databases are the Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) database, the State Soil Geographic (STATSGO) database, and the National Soil Geographic (NATSGO) database. These tabular data representing soil attributes are derived from properties and characteristics stored in the National Soil Information System (NASIS), such as soil organic carbon, soil texture, bulk density, available water storage, salinity, water table depth, depth to bedrock, flooding, potential wetland soil landscapes, associated metadata, and land management.
Sponsoring agency: USDA Natural Resources Conversation Service (NRCS)
Observation type: Distributed field, remote­sensing, and air campaign
Location: United States
Timeline: ~1930 to present
More information: URL

International Soil Carbon Network (ISCN)

Description: The ISCN is a self-chartered, scientific community resource devoted to the advancement of soil carbon research. The network coordinates independent soil research and monitoring efforts in the United States and internationally. ISCN members contribute to an open-access, community-driven soil carbon database.
Sponsoring agencies: USDA Forest Service, NRCS, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture; U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Observation type: Distributed field campaign
Location: United States and global
Timeline: 2012 to present
More information: URL


Description: The Landsat series of satellites provides the longest temporal record (over 45 years) of moderate resolution data of the Earth’s surface on a global basis. Landsat is a critical element of national and global carbon observation capability, providing foundational data covering many sectors of carbon observations and monitoring, such as forests, agriculture, soil, water, and land use. Landsat data, unique in quality, detail, coverage, and value, are routinely used in carbon cycle studies including mapping, modeling, and assessment.
Sponsoring agencies: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and USGS
Observation type: Repeat measurements of surface reflectance by satellites
Location: Global
Timeline: 1972 to present

More information: URL

Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network

Description: As the largest and longest-lived U.S. ecological network, LTER provides scientific expertise, research platforms, and long-term datasets to document and analyze environmental change, supporting a network of over 26 LTER sites encompassing diverse ecosystems including deserts, estuaries, lakes, the ocean, coral reefs, prairies, forests, alpine and Arctic tundra, urban areas, and production agriculture. The network was created to conduct research on ecological issues that can last decades and span huge geographical areas, assembling a multidisciplinary group of more than 2,000 scientists and graduate students.
Sponsoring agencies: NSF, USDA Forest Service, USDA ARS, U.S. Department of Interior (U.S. DOI) National Park Service, U.S. DOI Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Observation type: Distributed field campaign, airborne, and surface network
Location: Continental United States, Alaska, Antarctica, and islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific
Timeline: 1980 to present
More information: URL

Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE)–Arctic

Description: Initial research of NGEE-Arctic will focus on the highly dynamic landscapes of the North Slope (Barrow, Alaska), where thaw lakes, drained thaw lake basins, and ice-rich polygonal ground offer distinct land units for investigation and modeling. This project involves mechanistic studies in the field and the laboratory; modeling of critical and interrelated water, nitrogen, carbon, and energy dynamics; and characterization of important interactions, from molecular to landscape scales, that drive feedbacks to the climate system.
Sponsoring agency: DOE
Observation type: Field campaign
Location: Alaska
Timeline: 2012 to 2022
More information: URL

Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE)–Tropics

Description: NGEE-Tropics is a combined observational and modeling project to increase scientific understanding of how tropical forest ecosystems will respond to climatic and atmospheric changes, reduce uncertainty in Earth System Model projections, and discover whether tropical forests will act as net carbon sinks throughout this century. NGEE uses coupled observations and field campaigns in tropical forest regions and has developed a process-rich tropical forest ecosystem model at a resolution better than 10 km.
Sponsoring agencies: DOE, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, USDA Forest Service, and NASA
Observation type: Field and aircraft campaign
Location: Puerto Rico; Manaus, Brazil; and Panama
Timeline: 2016 to 2026
More information: URL

National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)

Description: NEON is designed to collect and provide open data that characterize and quantify complex, rapidly changing ecological processes in terrestrial and aquatic environments across the United States. The comprehensive data, spatial extent, and remote-sensing technology provided by NEON enable a large and diverse user community to tackle new questions at scales not accessible to previous generations of ecologists.
Sponsoring agency: NSF
Observation type: Distributed field campaign, airborne, and surface network
Location: United States
Timeline: 2011 to 2048
More information: URL

PEATcosm 1 and PEATcosm 2

Description: PEATcosm is a mesocosm experiment in which 24 bins, each 1 m3, are filled with relatively intact, undisturbed peat. PEATcosm 1, established in 2011, evaluates the influence of a lower water table and the shrub and Ericaceae communities on carbon cycling. PEATcosm 2, currently under establishment, is assessing the effect of water tables and the tree community encroachment on carbon cycles.
Sponsoring agencies: USDA Forest Service and NSF
Observation type: In situ measurements of carbon processes
Location: Houghton, Michigan
Timeline: 2011 to 2022
More information: URL

Rapid Carbon Assessment (RaCA)

Description: RaCA is designed to develop statistically reliable quantitative estimates of the amounts and distribution of carbon stocks for U.S. soils under various land covers and to the extent possible under differing agricultural management. The project also seeks to provide 1) data to support model simulations of soil carbon change related to land-use change, agricultural management, conservation practices, and climate change and 2) a scientifically and statistically defensible U.S. inventory of soil carbon stocks.
Sponsoring agency: USDA
Observation type: Distributed field campaign
Location: United States
Timeline: 2010 to present
More information: URL

Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE)

Description: The SPRUCE experiment, conducted in a black spruce peat bog in the U.S. Forest Service Marcell Experimental Forest in northern Minnesota, tests mechanisms controlling the vulnerability of organisms, biogeochemical processes, and ecosystems to climate change. SPRUCE is focused on the combined responses to multiple levels of warming at ambient or elevated CO2 levels, toward improving fundamental understanding and model representation of ecosystem processes under climate change.
Sponsoring agencies: DOE and USDA Forest Service
Observation type: Field campaign
Location: Minnesota
Timeline: 2015 to 2025
More information: URL

Tropical Responses to Altered Climate Experiment (TRACE)

Description: The TRACE experiment, conducted in wet tropical forests in the Luquillo Experimental Forest in northeast Puerto Rico, evaluates the effects of temperature increase on soil structure, biogeochemical cycling, plant physiology, and other key ecosystem processes, with a particular focus on understanding the relationship between temperature and carbon cycling. TRACE uses infrared heat to warm soils and understory plants and small resistance heaters to warm individual leaves in the forest canopy with the ultimate goal of improving the fundamental understanding and model representation of tropical forest processes in a warmer world.
Sponsoring agencies: USDA Forest Service and DOE
Observation type: Field campaign
Location: Puerto Rico
Timeline: 2015 to 2020 (est.)
More information: URL and URL

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