Lead Authors:
Gyami Shrestha, U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Nancy Cavallaro, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Richard Birdsey, Woods Hole Research Center
Melanie A. Mayes, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Raymond G. Najjar, The Pennsylvania State University
Sasha C. Reed, U.S. Geological Survey
Paty Romero-Lankao, National Center for Atmospheric Research (currently at National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Noel P. Gurwick, U.S. Agency for International Development
Peter J. Marcotullio, Hunter College, City University of New York
John Field, Colorado State University
Review Editor:
Rachel Melnick, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture


“… Carbon-cycling research has been a focus for the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) agencies because of the role carbon plays as a major regulator of Earth’s climate and as a key factor in controlling the acidity of the global oceans in order to assess and predict change; both carbon fluxes to the atmosphere (sources) and carbon sequestration in land and ocean ecosystems (sinks) need to be understood and quantified. The USGCRP agencies have championed strategic planning activities and promoted and coordinated core observations and process studies on global carbon sources and sinks. In 1998, the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group (CCIWG) was formally constituted to coordinate efforts that 12 U.S. government agencies and departments now lead as part of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program. During the past 25 years, research organized and supported in part by the USGCRP has greatly increased our understanding of the processes involved in, for example, the potential for enhanced decomposition of soil carbon as the climate warms, and the processes influencing carbon dioxide uptake in a warming ocean. Important components of this research are intensive, interagency coordinated field campaigns that unite in-situ, air-borne, and satellite-based observations….”

—U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017

Established more than 27 years ago following the authorization of the Global Change Research Act of 1990 by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) alliance of 13 U.S. governmental agencies and departments leads and facilitates federal research coordination to implement the mandate of the Global Change Research Act. This legal mandate requires that USGCRP assist the nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change. Interagency working groups and task teams have been an integral aspect of USGCRP’s evolution, implementing its annual priorities and decadal strategic goals (see Box P.3, Maximizing Interagency Coordination, this page). The Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group (CCIWG), established in 1998, is the longest-running USGCRP interagency working group. Its goals, objectives, functions, and activities, along with those of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program (established in 1999), align with the goals of the decadal USGCRP strategic plans (e.g., USGCRP 2012). CCIWG activities and goals are implemented in harmony with those plans and community-based science plans, including A U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Plan (Sarmiento and Wofsy 1999; Michalak et al., 2011), and they support new priorities and USGCRP directives, as well as carbon cycle research needs arising from new scientific findings and observations. The U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, in consultation with CCIWG, coordinates and facilitates activities relevant to carbon cycle science, climate, and global change issues under the auspices of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research (SGCR). CCIWG supports the peer-reviewed research of carbon cycle science across the federal government and is responsible for defining program goals, setting research priorities, and reviewing the progress of the research programs that contribute to carbon cycle science. CCIWG has sought to better understand past changes and current trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), deliver credible predictions of future atmospheric CO2 and CH4 levels, and strengthen the scientific foundation for management decisions in numerous areas of public interest related to carbon and climate change in the United States and other regions. Twelve federal agencies and departments coordinate and support CCIWG program activities. The U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, in coordination with the carbon cycle science community, established the North American Carbon Program in 2002 and the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Program in 2006. Several international activities also have been vital components of the program, including those of CarboNA (i.e., international partnership of Canada, Mexico, and the United States on the North American carbon cycle) and the Global Carbon Project. The mission of the CCIWG and the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program is to coordinate and facilitate federally funded carbon cycle research and provide leadership to USGCRP on carbon cycle science priorities. Over the 20 years since its establishment, this partnership continues to respond to community science needs, advances, opportunities, and governmental priorities while also informing pertinent decisions.

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