New Research Frontiers: the Urban Carbon Cycle
Typically, natural science studies of carbon in cities have focused on quantifying input and output, without examining how these carbon fluxes are tied to complex economic, behavioral, and political factors. Likewise, social science studies have not considered urban carbon on scales of time and space that connect with approaches used in the natural sciences.
As a first step in building an interdisciplinary community to explore human–carbon interactions in cities, USGCRP’s Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group—via the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program—sponsored a workshop last year with natural and social scientists and engineers from within and outside the government. The workshop participants delved into the challenges and opportunities involved in building a holistic research program on urbanization and the carbon cycle. They produced four peer-reviewed reports and a white paper to share their insights with the broader scientific community and with the research funding entities that catalyze advancements in carbon cycle science. “These community-led products are already serving as valuable input for evolving interagency conversations,” said Gyami Shrestha, Director of the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program Office.
Recently, these reports were published in a special section of the open-access journal Earth’s Future. The reports synthesize contributions from the social sciences (Marcotullio et al.), engineering sciences and technology (Chester et al.), and the natural sciences (Hutyra et al.), and present a new framework for the study of the urban carbon cycle that integrates perspectives from multiple disciplines (Romero-Lankao et al.).
These publications lay the groundwork for research that not only has the potential to advance understanding of the carbon cycle and urban environments, but also to inform the climate-resilient development and management of urban green spaces and infrastructure.