The main motivation for studying Earths global carbon cycle is to enable scientists to predict future levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to Steven C. Wofsy, an environmental scientist at Harvard University, the ability to predict carbon dioxide levels is important if Earth scientists are to answer fundamental questions like how much will global temperatures rise over time, and how will this affect other aspects of Earths climate?
"Are those 2 billion tons of carbon missing permanently, or
temporarily?" Wofsy asks. "Youre at a loss to predict if you
dont know why the carbon is disappearing and if it will stay
In a concerted effort to solve the mystery of the missing carbon, NASA led an interdisciplinary Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) from 1994-97 that spanned two Canadian provinces. Wofsy, along with members of 85 other science teams from five nations, participated in the investigation. Their prime suspect was the boreal forest. Named after Boreas, Greek god of the north wind, boreal refers to the mostly evergreen forest that encircles the Earth at high northern latitudesbetween 43°N-65°Noccupying between 16 to 20 million square kilometers of the Earths land surface. Could this cold, mostly coniferous ecosystem be the culprit?