Diagram showing how eddy covariance measurements are collected from wind eddies

Land surfaces across the globe absorb about a third of greenhouse gas emissions every year, due to the difference between two key processes: ecosystem photosynthesis and respiration. Despite their significance, it’s impossible to measure these two processes at the ecosystem scale during the daytime. Scientists have relied since the 1980s on a technique known as eddy-covariance, through which they can measure the exchange of carbon between ecosystems and the atmosphere at half-hour intervals. Measuring the turbulent, rotating eddies found within all moving airflows allows them to estimate ecosystem photosynthesis and respiration, but has been shown to be somewhat imprecise.

This week, a research team led by EESA research scientist Trevor Keenan released the results of their efforts to quantify an apparent inhibition of daytime ecosystem respiration across the global FLUXNET eddy-covariance network and identify a pervasive influence that varies by season and ecosystem type. A paper detailing their study is published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Keenan also wrote about the team’s work here in an article penned for the Nature Ecology & Evolution blog.