Full Circle: Investigating the Coastal Carbon Cycle

The SERDP-funded  Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program (DCERP) conducts mission-relevant basic and applied research in support of ecosystem-based management. The program's primary goal is to enhance and sustain the military mission by developing an understanding of coastal and estuarine ecosystem composition, structure, and function within the context of a military training environment. This long-term collaborative effort, led by RTI International, centered primarily on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC, is being conducted in two phases:  DCERP1 ran from 2006 to 2013 and DCERP2 began in 2013.

Sample data being collected in the Aquatic/Estuarine and Coastal Wetlands modules in support of carbon mass balancing and estuarine carbon simulation model validation.

Sample data being collected in the Aquatic/Estuarine and Coastal Wetlands modules in support of carbon mass balancing and estuarine carbon simulation model validation.

The long-term benefit of DCERP is a greater understanding of Camp Lejeune's biologically diverse coastal barrier island, estuarine, coastal wetland, and terrestrial ecosystems and their interactions with military training activities.  Data resulting from this program's research and monitoring efforts will increase the ability of installation resource managers to perform assessments and implement appropriate management responses to potential environmental impacts arising from military activities, natural disturbance events, or climate change.

DCERP2 is focusing considerable research and monitoring efforts on coastal carbon cycling in a changing climate.  Multi-disciplinary approaches equally weight intra-ecosystem mass balancing with inter-ecosystem carbon exchanges, establishment of proxy measurements for carbon reactivity and transport, and modeling to yield an integrated assessment of dynamic carbon distribution across a coastal landscape.  Results will provide an accounting of present-day coastal carbon storage, enhance the understanding of how coastal carbon cycling may likely change on the decadal scale as affected by a changing climate, and facilitate application of this knowledge to other regions.

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The DCERP2 team has made several presentations relative to its carbon cycle work this summer and will continue its outreach activities throughout the fall. In July, DCERP2 presented at Restore America’s Estuaries Blue Carbon Workshop held in Morehead City, NC. Later this month, Dr. Craig Tobias from the University of Connecticut and DCERP2’s Carbon Cycling group lead will present the group’s work on coastal carbon to the Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group (CCIWG) in Washington, DC. This latter presentation will provide an opportunity for the other Federal agencies on the CCIWG to see how DoD’s funded-research may contribute to advancing scientific understanding of coastal carbon.

To find out the latest information on DCERP2, visit them on the web at https://dcerp.rti.org/. Among other things, you will find reports, presentations, fact sheets, and their latest newsletter! In addition, you can access this program on the SERDP and ESTCP website.

DCERP2 Collaborative Organizations

  • RTI International
  • Duke University
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences
  • Virginia Tech
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Aquatic Analysis and Consulting, LLC
  • Geodynamics, LLC
  • Seahorse Coastal Consulting

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