Biological Carbon Sequestration at Berkeley Lab: Fundamental Research on Biological Carbon Capture and Soil Carbon Stabilization
An LBNL Strategic Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) team, consisting of scientists from four different LBNL divisions (Earth Sciences Division, Physical Biosciences Division, Life Sciences Division, and Materials Sciences Division), has recently identified three priority challenges for biosequestration research: (1) to understand the mechanisms of soil carbon stabilization and how to influence them; (2) to understand how to enhance or influence different means of biologically capturing CO2 in ecological and industrial environments; and (3) to understand and evaluate strategies to increase sequestration of atmospheric carbon and minimize loss of already sequestered carbon.
The context for this action is the understanding that sequestering carbon through biological capture of CO2 and stabilization in soils is one of the approaches being considered for reduction of atmospheric carbon loads. Soils are a promising reservoir for sequestration, because soil organic carbon residence times are up to tens of thousands of years, and soil carbon is less vulnerable to disturbance than is aboveground biomass.
The long-term goal for this LDRD project is to build an LBNL center of excellence for biological carbon sequestration—an internationally recognized and valuable resource center that would achieve major advances in climate change mitigation.
This strategic LDRD has two aims:
- To focus Berkeley Lab’s expertise on the challenges of biological carbon capture and the stability of different carbon forms in soil. This research also has synergy with other climate mitigation efforts (for example, carbon capture from flue gas and use of algae to produce biofuels).
- To lay the foundation for a Berkeley Lab Center for Carbon Biosequestration (CCAB) and to complement existing initiatives focused on geological carbon sequestration. This goal will engage the breadth of Berkeley Lab expertise in high-profile research on biological sequestration and in Center development activities.
As mentioned above, the strategic LDRD team consists of scientists from four different Berkeley Lab divisions, plus many focal lab facilities, including the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI), the Molecular Foundry, the Advanced Light Source (ALS), the Center for Isotope Geochemistry, and the Center for Environmental Biotechnology (CEB). Members of the consortium include: Janet Jansson (Coordinator, ESD), Margaret Torn (ESD), Christer Jansson (ESD), Eoin Brodie (ESD), Harry Beller (ESD and JBEI), Hoi-Ying Holman (ESD and ALS), Peter Nico (ESD and ALS), Ron Zuckerman (MSD and Molecular Foundry), Caroline Ajo-Franklin (MSD), Trent Northen (LSD and JBEI), Jim Bristow (JGI) and Cheryl Kerfeld (JGI).
Together, the team has a unique combination of expertise and facilities to carry out ground-breaking research in the area of biosequestration and soil carbon stabilization. This research will serve as a seed for future carbon sequestration research at Berkeley Lab.