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Natural Carbon Storage Off the California Coast?

A new study from the University of Southern California finds that the cool waters off the coast of Los Angeles are acting as a carbon sink by sequestering more carbon than other parts of the world’s oceans.

Lisa Collins, a lecturer at the USC Dornsife College, spent four years studying samples from floating sediment traps in the San Pedro Basin as a way to determine what’s falling through the water column and how deep it’s getting.

“We have a pretty good idea of how much biomass is produced in the ocean, but we don’t have a great idea of how much of that biomass actually gets down through the water column and ultimately to the sediment,” said Collins.

One reason that matters, she says, is that phytoplankton, which make up much of the biomass, live and grow by taking up sunlight and carbon dioxide, just like plants on land do. When the phytoplankton die, they sink, taking that stored carbon down the water column with them. If they make it all the way to the mud at the bottom of the ocean, Collins says, that carbon will be sequestered there for hundreds or thousands of years or more. Continue reading