Forty three years ago a hundred scientists gathered for a three day symposium on the “carbon budget” of the planet, and how it was changing.
We have known about this problem for a looooooong time.
AEC Symposium Series CARBON and the BIOSPHERE Technical Information Center, Office of Information Services' UNITED STATES ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION CONF-720510 Proceedings of the 24th Brookhaven Symposium in Biology, Upton, New York May 16-18, 1972 Sponsored by Brookhaven National Laboratory Editors George M. Woodwell Erene V. Pecan August 1973 Published by Technical Information Center, Office of Information Services UNITED STATES ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION Available as CONF-720510 for $10.60 from National Technical Information Service U. S. Department of Commerce Springfield, Virginia 22151 International Standard Book Number 0-87079-006-4 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 73-600092 AEC Distribution Category UC-48 PREFACE The change that man is making in the world carbon budget is among the most abrupt and fundamental changes that the biosphere has experienced in all of world history. The change is in the stuff of life itself and is by now common knowledge. The starkly simple, upward-trending graphs of the C0 2 content of air at Mauna Loa have become a part of the educated man's background in science. But the implications of the change are far less clear than the fact of change. Why has the change not been more? Or less? Where does the carbon go? What does the future hold? The topic is of unquestioned importance and has been addressed recently by various learned groups (SCEP,* 1970; SMIC,t 1971; and at the Nobel Symposium 20, i 1971). These studies have emphasized that prediction is dependent not only on collaboration among scientists of diverse disciplines but on new knowledge: the biosphere is poorly known. More than a hundred scientists gathered at Brookhaven National Laboratory from May 16 to 18, 1972, under the auspices of the 24th Brookhaven Symposium in Biology to make a new appraisal of the world carbon budget. The appraisal was incomplete. Despite an explicit attempt to include it, there was no treatment of one of the largest and most active pools of carbon: humus and peat. Nonetheless, this publication includes specific attempts at presenting the most modern estimates of various dimensions of the biota, including both biomass and productivity. Many of these estimates are crude, a fact that emphasizes only that the science of the biosphere is still primitive, despite its obvious importance.
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