Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 15, issue 12
Biogeosciences, 15, 3625-3657, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 15, 3625-3657, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Reviews and syntheses 18 Jun 2018

Reviews and syntheses | 18 Jun 2018

Reviews and syntheses: Carbonyl sulfide as a multi-scale tracer for carbon and water cycles

Mary E. Whelan1,2, Sinikka T. Lennartz3, Teresa E. Gimeno4, Richard Wehr5, Georg Wohlfahrt6, Yuting Wang7, Linda M. J. Kooijmans8, Timothy W. Hilton9, Sauveur Belviso10, Philippe Peylin10, Róisín Commane11, Wu Sun2, Huilin Chen8, Le Kuai12, Ivan Mammarella13, Kadmiel Maseyk14, Max Berkelhammer15, King-Fai Li16, Dan Yakir17, Andrew Zumkehr18, Yoko Katayama19, Jérôme Ogée4, Felix M. Spielmann6, Florian Kitz6, Bharat Rastogi20, Jürgen Kesselmeier21, Julia Marshall22, Kukka-Maaria Erkkilä13, Lisa Wingate4, Laura K. Meredith23, Wei He8, Rüdiger Bunk21, Thomas Launois4, Timo Vesala13,24,25, Johan A. Schmidt26, Cédric G. Fichot27, Ulli Seibt2, Scott Saleska5, Eric S. Saltzman28, Stephen A. Montzka29, Joseph A. Berry1, and J. Elliott Campbell9 Mary E. Whelan et al.
  • 1Carnegie Institution for Science, 260 Panama St., Stanford, CA 94305, USA
  • 2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Ave., 7127 Math Sciences Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1565, USA
  • 3GEOMAR Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Duesternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
  • 4INRA, UMR ISPA, 71 Avenue Edouard Bourleaux, 33140, Villenave d'Ornon, France
  • 5Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, 1041 E. Lowell St., Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
  • 6Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Sternwartestr. 15, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  • 7Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Otto-Hahn-Allee 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 8Centre for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 6, 9747 AG Groningen, the Netherlands
  • 9Environmental Studies Department, UC Santa Cruz, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
  • 10Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ-Paris Saclay, Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 11Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 20 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 12UCLA Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering (JIFRESSE), Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, 4800 Oak Groove Dr., M/S 233-200, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
  • 13Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 68, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
  • 14School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, UK
  • 15Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607, USA
  • 16Environmental Sciences, University of California, Riverside, 900 University Ave, Geology 2460, Riverside, CA 92521, USA
  • 17Earth and Planetary Sciences, Weizmann Instiutute of Science, 234 Herzl St., Rehovot 76100, Israel
  • 18University of California, Merced, 5200 N. Lake Rd., Merced, CA 95343, USA
  • 19Center for Conservation Science, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 3–43 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, 110–8713 Tokyo, Japan
  • 20Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, 374 Richardson Hall, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
  • 21Department of Multiphase Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, P.O. Box 3060, 55020 Mainz, Germany
  • 22Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Hans-Knöll-Str. 10, 7745 Jena, Germany
  • 23School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, 1064 E. Lowell St., Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
  • 24Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research/Forest Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 68, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
  • 25Viikki Plant Science Centre, University of Helsinki, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
  • 26Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 27Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA
  • 28Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, Croul Hall, Irvine, CA 92697-3100, USA
  • 29NOAA/ESRL/GMD, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305, USA

Abstract. For the past decade, observations of carbonyl sulfide (OCS or COS) have been investigated as a proxy for carbon uptake by plants. OCS is destroyed by enzymes that interact with CO2 during photosynthesis, namely carbonic anhydrase (CA) and RuBisCO, where CA is the more important one. The majority of sources of OCS to the atmosphere are geographically separated from this large plant sink, whereas the sources and sinks of CO2 are co-located in ecosystems. The drawdown of OCS can therefore be related to the uptake of CO2 without the added complication of co-located emissions comparable in magnitude. Here we review the state of our understanding of the global OCS cycle and its applications to ecosystem carbon cycle science. OCS uptake is correlated well to plant carbon uptake, especially at the regional scale. OCS can be used in conjunction with other independent measures of ecosystem function, like solar-induced fluorescence and carbon and water isotope studies. More work needs to be done to generate global coverage for OCS observations and to link this powerful atmospheric tracer to systems where fundamental questions concerning the carbon and water cycle remain.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Measurements of the trace gas carbonyl sulfide (OCS) are helpful in quantifying photosynthesis at previously unknowable temporal and spatial scales. While CO2 is both consumed and produced within ecosystems, OCS is mostly produced in the oceans or from specific industries, and destroyed in plant leaves in proportion to CO2. This review summarizes the advancements we have made in the understanding of OCS exchange and applications to vital ecosystem water and carbon cycle questions.
Measurements of the trace gas carbonyl sulfide (OCS) are helpful in quantifying photosynthesis...