A study showed Monday that fjords from Alaska to Norway are playing an important role in regulating the planet’s climate. They are soaking up potentially detrimental carbon from the atmosphere and making steep-sided inlets an alley for counteracting climate change.
The study, which appears in the international journal Nature Geoscience, suggests that fjords can bury up to 18 million tons of organic carbon. This is equivalent to 11 percent of organic carbon in soil, plants and rocks around the globe, according to New Zealand Herald.
A U.S.-led team of scientists and researchers wrote in Nature Geoscience that cliff-sided inlets are “one of the ocean’s major hotspots for organic carbon burial.” They added that the burial is based on a “mass of carbon buried per unit area,” according to Christian Science Monitor.
Carbon, which cycles throughout nature and serves as a building block for life on Earth, could be important in the battle against man-made climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the prime greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
Fjords are narrow, deep estuaries found during glacial periods at high latitudes while advancing glaciers carve into coastal valleys. They can be found in Greenland, Antarctica, New Zealand, North Western Europe and North America.
They successfully store carbon because they are deep. They also have calm waters that are oxygen-deprived, and they collect carbon-rich river waters. The oxygen-deprived waters help fjords swiftly obtain carbon without bacteria getting to it first and breaking it down.
Global Aquatic Research scientist Richard Smith claimed that fjords have “been ignored.” And other scientists agreed. University of Washington representative Richard Keil, who did not participate in the study, said that “fjords are mighty” although they are small.
In order to predict the blow of man-made greenhouse gases, researchers need to understand nature’s role in absorbing carbon, as reported by Christian Science Monitor. Keil said that researchers still “lack a full understanding of carbon burial” despite decades upon decades of research.