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Funded Research

An Integrated Terrestrial-Coastal Ocean Observation and Modeling Framework for Carbon Management Decision Support

Lohrenz, Steven (Steve): University of Massachusetts (Project Lead)
Cai, Wei-Jun: University of Delaware (Co-Investigator)
He, Ruoying: North Carolina State University & Fathom Science (Co-Investigator)
Tian, Hanqin: Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, Boston College (Co-Investigator)
Pfeil, Benjamin: Surface Ocean Carbon Atlas (SOCAT) (Stakeholder)
Shrestha, Gyami: Lynker Corporation (Stakeholder)

Project Funding: 2014 - 2018

NRA: 2014 NASA: Carbon Monitoring System   

Funded by NASA

The NASA Carbon Monitoring System effort seeks to apply satellite remote sensing resources along with observational and modeling capabilities to improve monitoring of carbon stocks and fluxes, particularly as they contribute to the development of Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system capabilities. Our prior NASA-funded research employs a combination of models and remotely-sensed and in situ observations to develop georeferenced products and associated uncertainties for land-ocean exchange of carbon, air-sea exchanges of carbon dioxide, and coastal to open ocean exchanges of carbon. A major aspect of this project has been to establish and populate geospatial portals for sharing and analysis of carbon datasets and products. The primary region of study has been the Mississippi River watershed and northern Gulf of Mexico. The unique nature of our approach, coupling models of terrestrial and ocean ecosystem dynamics and associated carbon processes, allows for assessment of how societal and human-related land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and climate-related change affect terrestrial carbon storage and fluxes, as well as export of materials through watersheds to the coastal margins. Here, we propose to extend the domain of our observational and integrated terrestrial-ocean ecosystem model system to include the southeastern U.S. and South Atlantic Bight. In addition to land-ocean and sea-atmosphere exchanges, we will utilize satellite observations together with the capabilities of the terrestrial ecosystem model to characterize and quantify terrestrial carbon storage and fluxes, including land-atmosphere fluxes of both carbon dioxide and methane. Our approach will include assembling model products along with associated uncertainties and errors in a geospatial framework that will facilitate decision support for carbon and land use management. Objectives of the proposed research include the following: 1) Expand the spatial domain of our observational and integrated modeling approach to include the Mississippi River basin and southeastern U.S., and examine terrestrial carbon storage and fluxes including characterization and quantification of biomass and carbon stocks in and land-atmosphere, land-ocean, and sea-atmosphere fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane; 2) Examine different LULUCF scenarios within the terrestrial domain and different climate scenarios to assess effectiveness of carbon management strategies; 3) Engage with other CMS projects and stakeholders (e.g., USDA, National Climate Assessment, etc.) to identify user needs related to carbon management and MRV activities, modify and expand the scope of information based on user feedback, and explore possible transition of prototype products to fully operational status. The Application Readiness Level of our prior CMS project was rated as ARL-4 (Initial Implementation and Verification in Laboratory Environment), with the potential to advance to ARL-6 (Demonstration in a Relevant Environment). A goal of this proposed research will be to advance this capability to ARL-7 (Application of Prototype in Partnerís Operational Decision Making Environment). Our proposed effort will aid in the effective implementation of MRV approaches, which require an understanding of the contributions of individual forest and other ecotypes beyond local to regional and national scale carbon processes. Furthermore, our proposed effort will aid in governance and decision support related to carbon management, including the ability to evaluate different LULUCF scenarios in the context of changing climate conditions. Extended impacts of forest and other land use management strategies on carbon storage and transport, including in soils and into watersheds and coastal margins will be assessed. Finally, this information will be readily accessible as a geo-referenced product to support operational needs of stakeholders.


Chakraborty, S., Lohrenz, S. E., Gundersen, K. 2017. Photophysiological and light absorption properties of phytoplankton communities in the river-dominated margin of the northern G ulf of M exico. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 122(6), 4922-4938. DOI: 10.1002/2016JC012092

Fennel, K., Alin, S., Barbero, L., Evans, W., Bourgeois, T., Cooley, S., Dunne, J., Feely, R. A., Hernandez-Ayon, J. M., Hu, C., Hu, X., Lohrenz, S., Muller-Karger, F., Najjar, R., Robbins, L., Russell, J., Shadwick, E., Siedlecki, S., Steiner, N., Turk, D., Vlahos, P., Wang, Z. A. 2018. Chapter 16: Coastal Ocean and Continental Shelves. Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report DOI: 10.7930/soccr2.2018.ch16

Fennel, K., Alin, S., Barbero, L., Evans, W., Bourgeois, T., Cooley, S., Dunne, J., Feely, R. A., Hernandez-Ayon, J. M., Hu, X., Lohrenz, S., Muller-Karger, F., Najjar, R., Robbins, L., Shadwick, E., Siedlecki, S., Steiner, N., Sutton, A., Turk, D., Vlahos, P., Wang, Z. A. 2019. Carbon cycling in the North American coastal ocean: a synthesis. Biogeosciences. 16(6), 1281-1304. DOI: 10.5194/bg-16-1281-2019

Hurtt, G. C., Andrews, A., Bowman, K., Brown, M. E., Chatterjee, A., Escobar, V., Fatoyinbo, L., Griffith, P., Guy, M., Healey, S. P., Jacob, D. J., Kennedy, R., Lohrenz, S., McGroddy, M. E., Morales, V., Nehrkorn, T., Ott, L., Saatchi, S., Sepulveda Carlo, E., Serbin, S. P., Tian, H. 2022. The NASA Carbon Monitoring System Phase 2 synthesis: scope, findings, gaps and recommended next steps. Environmental Research Letters. 17(6), 063010. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac7407

Lohrenz, S. E., Cai, W., Chakraborty, S., Huang, W., Guo, X., He, R., Xue, Z., Fennel, K., Howden, S., Tian, H. 2018. Satellite estimation of coastal pCO2 and air-sea flux of carbon dioxide in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Remote Sensing of Environment. 207, 71-83. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2017.12.039

Lu, C., Yu, Z., Tian, H., Hennessy, D. A., Feng, H., Al-Kaisi, M., Zhou, Y., Sauer, T., Arritt, R. 2018. Increasing carbon footprint of grain crop production in the US Western Corn Belt. Environmental Research Letters. 13(12), 124007. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aae9fe

Lu, C., Zhang, J., Tian, H., Crumpton, W. G., Helmers, M. J., Cai, W., Hopkinson, C. S., Lohrenz, S. E. 2020. Increased extreme precipitation challenges nitrogen load management to the Gulf of Mexico. Communications Earth & Environment. 1(1). DOI: 10.1038/s43247-020-00020-7

Najjar, R. G., Herrmann, M., Alexander, R., Boyer, E. W., Burdige, D. J., Butman, D., Cai, W., Canuel, E. A., Chen, R. F., Friedrichs, M. A. M., Feagin, R. A., Griffith, P. C., Hinson, A. L., Holmquist, J. R., Hu, X., Kemp, W. M., Kroeger, K. D., Mannino, A., McCallister, S. L., McGillis, W. R., Mulholland, M. R., Pilskaln, C. H., Salisbury, J., Signorini, S. R., St-Laurent, P., Tian, H., Tzortziou, M., Vlahos, P., Wang, Z. A., Zimmerman, R. C. 2018. Carbon Budget of Tidal Wetlands, Estuaries, and Shelf Waters of Eastern North America. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 32(3), 389-416. DOI: 10.1002/2017GB005790

Poulter, B., Bousquet, P., Canadell, J. G., Ciais, P., Peregon, A., Saunois, M., Arora, V. K., Beerling, D. J., Brovkin, V., Jones, C. D., Joos, F., Gedney, N., Ito, A., Kleinen, T., Koven, C. D., McDonald, K., Melton, J. R., Peng, C., Peng, S., Prigent, C., Schroeder, R., Riley, W. J., Saito, M., Spahni, R., Tian, H., Taylor, L., Viovy, N., Wilton, D., Wiltshire, A., Xu, X., Zhang, B., Zhang, Z., Zhu, Q. 2017. Global wetland contribution to 2000-2012 atmospheric methane growth rate dynamics. Environmental Research Letters. 12(9), 094013. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa8391

Ren, W., Tian, H., Cai, W., Lohrenz, S. E., Hopkinson, C. S., Huang, W., Yang, J., Tao, B., Pan, S., He, R. 2016. Century-long increasing trend and variability of dissolved organic carbon export from the Mississippi River basin driven by natural and anthropogenic forcing. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 30(9), 1288-1299. DOI: 10.1002/2016GB005395

Ren, W., Tian, H., Tao, B., Yang, J., Pan, S., Cai, W., Lohrenz, S. E., He, R., Hopkinson, C. S. 2015. Large increase in dissolved inorganic carbon flux from the Mississippi River to Gulf of Mexico due to climatic and anthropogenic changes over the 21st century. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 120(4), 724-736. DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002761

Tian, H., Xu, R., Pan, S., Yao, Y., Bian, Z., Cai, W., Hopkinson, C. S., Justic, D., Lohrenz, S., Lu, C., Ren, W., Yang, J. 2020. Long-Term Trajectory of Nitrogen Loading and Delivery From Mississippi River Basin to the Gulf of Mexico. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 34(5). DOI: 10.1029/2019GB006475

Yu, Z., Lu, C., Cao, P., Tian, H. 2018. Long-term terrestrial carbon dynamics in the Midwestern United States during 1850-2015: Roles of land use and cover change and agricultural management. Global Change Biology. 24(6), 2673-2690. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14074

Zhang, B., Tian, H., Lu, C., Chen, G., Pan, S., Anderson, C., Poulter, B. 2017. Methane emissions from global wetlands: An assessment of the uncertainty associated with various wetland extent data sets. Atmospheric Environment. 165, 310-321. DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2017.07.001

Benway, H. M., Alin, S. R., Boyer, E., Cai, W., Coble, P. G., Cross, J. N., Friedrichs, M. A. M., Goni, M., Griffith, P., Herrmann, M., Lohrenz, S. E., Mathis, J. T., McKinley, G. A., Najjar, R. G., Pilskaln, C. H., Siedlecki, S. A., Smith, R. A. 2016. A science plan for carbon cycle research in North American coastal waters. Report of the Coastal CARbon Synthesis (CCARS) community workshop, August 19-21, 2014 DOI: 10.1575/1912/7777

Tian, H., Lu, C., Ciais, P., Michalak, A. M., Canadell, J. G., Saikawa, E., Huntzinger, D. N., Gurney, K. R., Sitch, S., Zhang, B., Yang, J., Bousquet, P., Bruhwiler, L., Chen, G., Dlugokencky, E., Friedlingstein, P., Melillo, J., Pan, S., Poulter, B., Prinn, R., Saunois, M., Schwalm, C. R., Wofsy, S. C. 2016. The terrestrial biosphere as a net source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Nature. 531(7593), 225-228. DOI: 10.1038/nature16946

Salisbury, J., Vandemark, D., Jonsson, B., Balch, W., Chakraborty, S., Lohrenz, S., Chapron, B., Hales, B., Mannino, A., Mathis, J., Reul, N., Signorini, S., Wanninkhof, R., Yates, K. 2015. How Can Present and Future Satellite Missions Support Scientific Studies that Address Ocean Acidification? Oceanography. 25(2), 108-121. DOI: 10.5670/oceanog.2015.35

Yang, Q., Tian, H., Li, X., Ren, W., Zhang, B., Zhang, X., Wolf, J. 2016. Spatiotemporal patterns of livestock manure nutrient production in the conterminous United States from 1930 to 2012. Science of The Total Environment. 541, 1592-1602. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.10.044

Huang, W., Cai, W., Wang, Y., Hu, X., Chen, B., Lohrenz, S. E., Chakraborty, S., He, R., Brandes, J., Hopkinson, C. S. 2015. The response of inorganic carbon distributions and dynamics to upwelling-favorable winds on the northern Gulf of Mexico during summer. Continental Shelf Research. 111, 211-222. DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2015.08.020

Yang, J., Tian, H., Tao, B., Ren, W., Pan, S., Liu, Y., Wang, Y. 2015. A growing importance of large fires in conterminous United States during 1984-2012. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 120(12), 2625-2640. DOI: 10.1002/2015JG002965

Xue, Z., He, R., Fennel, K., Cai, W., Lohrenz, S., Huang, W., Tian, H., Ren, W., Zang, Z. 2016. Modeling <i>p</i>CO<sub>2</sub> variability in the Gulf of Mexico. Biogeosciences. 13(15), 4359-4377. DOI: 10.5194/bg-13-4359-2016

Tian, H., Ren, W., Yang, J., Tao, B., Cai, W., Lohrenz, S. E., Hopkinson, C. S., Liu, M., Yang, Q., Lu, C., Zhang, B., Banger, K., Pan, S., He, R., Xue, Z. 2015. Climate extremes dominating seasonal and interannual variations in carbon export from the Mississippi River Basin. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 29(9), 1333-1347. DOI: 10.1002/2014GB005068

Chakraborty, S., Lohrenz, S. 2015. Phytoplankton community structure in the river-influenced continental margin of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 521, 31-47. DOI: 10.3354/meps11107

Huang, W., Cai, W., Wang, Y., Lohrenz, S. E., Murrell, M. C. 2015. The carbon dioxide system on the Mississippi River-dominated continental shelf in the northern Gulf of Mexico: 1. Distribution and air-sea CO2flux. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 120(3), 1429-1445. DOI: 10.1002/2014JC010498

Tian, H., Yang, Q., Najjar, R. G., Ren, W., Friedrichs, M. A. M., Hopkinson, C. S., Pan, S. 2015. Anthropogenic and climatic influences on carbon fluxes from eastern North America to the Atlantic Ocean: A process-based modeling study. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. 120(4), 757-772. DOI: 10.1002/2014JG002760

Zhang, C., Tian, H., Pan, S., Lockaby, G., Chappelka, A. 2014. Multi-factor controls on terrestrial carbon dynamics in urbanized areas. Biogeosciences. 11(24), 7107-7124. DOI: 10.5194/bg-11-7107-2014

2015 NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop Poster(s)

  • Ocean margins as an increasing sink for the atmospheric carbon dioxide   --   (Wei-Jun Cai, Goulven Laruelle, Xinping Hu, Pierre Regnier)   [abstract]
  • Contemporary and projected lateral carbon fluxes from North America to Oceans: A process-based modeling study   --   (Hanqin Tian, Qichun Yang, Wei Ren, Chaoqun Lu, Bowen Zhang, Shufen Pan, Bo Tao, Steven Lohrenz, Wei-Jun Cai, Ruoying He, Marjorie Friedrichs, Raymond Najjar)   [abstract]

More details may be found in the following project profile(s):