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Sensors and Techniques for Measuring Terrestrial Carbon Sinks and Sources


Measurement technology is required to quantify carbon sequestration by natural vegetation and ecosystems (i.e., carbon sinks) as well as CO2 emissions to the atmosphere from natural or industrial sources. Grant applications are sought to develop sensors and unique measurement techniques (and associated system technology, if appropriate) to detect and quantify annual net carbon changes of terrestrial vegetation for large areas, or to measure and verify the magnitude of CO2 emissions from various sources. Approaches of interest include the development of sensors to measure fluxes between the atmosphere and land-surface vegetation, new technology for accurate measurement of soil carbon content and change, and the development of miniaturized sensors to determine atmospheric CO2 concentration.

For the measurement of CO2 sinks, the sensor systems or new technology must be applicable for forests, grasslands, shrub lands, agricultural lands, and/or wetlands, and have the capability of producing spatially resolved aggregate estimates of terrestrial carbon changes to an accuracy of 10 to 25 g/m2/yr (or approximately 0.25 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year), with less than 25 percent uncertainty.

For measuring emissions or atmospheric concentrations, the apparatus must be located at a point remote from the actual site of CO2 release and provide accuracy estimates for CO2 concentrations of approximately 0.3 ppm or less in dry air. Mechanical sensors must be durable in the full range of normal environmental conditions and exposures, including exposure to dust, rain, snow, heat, extreme cold, and fog. Operation in unattended, remote locations for weeks at a time, without degradation of the measurement, is also required; however, daily telecommunication with the system for monitoring performance
and detecting potential operational problems would be desirable.

Proposed approaches, including both mechanical sensors and non-mechanical technology should consist of new, innovative methodologies that are significant advances over conventional scientific approaches used to measure CO2, carbon, and methane within the atmospheric and terrestrial components of the global carbon cycle. Specifically, the measurement systems should be different from, or substantially augment, existing techniques for eddy flux (covariance)
methods and routine monitoring of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, or for estimating carbon quantities of land and/or ocean constituents of the carbon cycle. Grant applications proposing in situ or in-stream measurement of flue gas emissions will be declined, as will applications that offer only incremental or marginal improvements over existing measurement systems.

Questions – contact Rick Petty,

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