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About the Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems (CC&E) Focus Area at NASA

The Earth's ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles (such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus) both drive and respond to environmental changes ranging from local to global scales. These environmental changes are occurring on an unprecedented scale, in both time and geographical extent. Major uncertainties in Earth science originate from the dynamics and interactions within and between ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles across land, ocean, atmospheric, and human systems. Resolution of uncertainties is needed because of the profound implications for future climate, food production, biological diversity, sustainable resource management, etc. Thus, several programs in the Earth Science Division coordinate their activities and facilitate interdisciplinary inquiry about Earth's carbon cycle and ecosystems. Their overarching science goal is to:

Detect and predict changes in Earth’s ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles, including land cover, biological diversity, and the global carbon cycle.

This goal leads to several science questions addressed by programs in the CC&E Focus Area:

  • How are global ecosystems changing?
  • What trends in atmospheric constituents and solar radiation are driving global climate
  • What changes are occurring in global land cover and land use, and what are their causes?
  • How do ecosystems, land cover, and biogeochemical cycles respond to and affect global environmental change?
  • What are the consequences of land cover and land use change for human societies and the sustainability of ecosystems?
  • What are the consequences of climate change and increased human activities for coastal regions?**
  • How will carbon cycle dynamics and terrestrial and marine ecosystems change in the future?

** indicates questions the CC&E Focus Area shares with other Earth Science Focus Areas.
The Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Focus Area includes the following programs: (i) Terrestrial Ecology, (ii) Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry, (iii) Land Cover/ Land Use Change; (iv) Biological Diversity; and Ecological Conservation.

Major Research Objectives:

  1. Document and understand how the global carbon cycle, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and land cover and use are changing.
  2. Quantify global productivity, biomass, carbon fluxes, and changes in land cover.
  3. Provide information about future changes in global carbon cycling and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for use in ecological forecasting and as inputs for improved climate change projections.