A Large Northern Hemisphere Terrestrial CO2 Sink Indicated by the 13C/12C Ratio of Atmospheric CO2

Science  25 Aug 1995:
Vol. 269, Issue 5227, pp. 1098-1102
DOI: 10.1126/science.269.5227.1098


Measurements of the concentrations and carbon-13/carbon-12 isotope ratios of atmospheric carbon dioxide can be used to quantify the net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the oceans and terrestrial plants. A study of weekly samples from a global network of 43 sites defined the latitudinal and temporal patterns of the two carbon sinks. A strong terrestrial biospheric sink was found in the temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in 1992 and 1993, the magnitude of which is roughly half that of the global fossil fuel burning emissions for those years. The challenge now is to identify those processes that would cause the terrestrial biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide in such large quantities.

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