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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Reviews and syntheses
24 Oct 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).
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. Hilton2, Sauveur Belviso9, Philippe Peylin9, Róisín Commane10, Wu Sun11, Huilin Chen8, Le Kuai12, Ivan Mammarella13, Kadmiel Maseyk14, Max Berkelhammer15, King-Fai Li16, Dan Yakir17, Andrew Zumkehr2, Yoko Katayama18, Jérôme Ogée4, Felix M. Spielmann6, Florian Kitz6, Bharat Rastogi19, Jürgen Kesselmeier20, Julia Marshall21, Kukka-Maaria Erkkilä13, Lisa Wingate4, Laura K. Meredith22, Wei He8, Rüdiger Bunk20, Thomas Launois4, Timo Vesala13,23,24, Johan A. Schmidt25, Cédric G. Fichot26, Ulli Seibt11, Scott Saleska5, Eric S. Saltzman27, Stephen A. Montzka28, Joseph A. Berry1, and J. Elliott Campbell29 1Carnegie Institution for Science, 260 Panama St., Stanford, CA, 94305, USA
2University of California, Merced, 5200 N. Lake Rd., Merced, CA, 95343, USA
3GEOMAR Helmholtz-Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Duesternbrooker Weg 20, Kiel, 24105, 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, 85721, USA
6University of Innsbruck, Institute of Ecology, Sternwartestr. 15, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria
7Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Otto-Hahn-Allee 1, Bremen, 28359, Germany
8Centre for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 6, Groningen, 9747 AG, The Netherlands
9Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA, Orme des Merisiers, Gif-sur-Yvette, 91191, France
10Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 20 Oxford Street, Cambridge, 2138, USA
11Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, UCLA, 405 Hilgard Ave., 7127 Math Sciences Building, Los Angeles, CA, CA 90095-1565, 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
13Department of Physics, P.O. Box 68, 00014, University of Helsinki, Finland
14School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK17 8NY, 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
18Institute of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, 3-5-8 Saiwai-cho, Fuchu, Tokyo, 183-8509, Japan
19Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, 374 Richardson Hall , Corvallis, 97333, USA
20Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Department of Multiphase Chemistry, P.O. Box 3060, Mainz, 55020, Germany
21Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Hans-Knöll-Str. 10, Jena, 7745, Germany
22School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, 1064 E. Lowell St., Tucson, 85721, USA
23University of Helsinki, Department of Forest Sciences, P.O. Box 27, 00014, University of Helsinki, Finland
24Viikki Plant Science Centre, Univeristy of Helsinki, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
25University of Copenhagen, Department of Chemistry, Universitetsparken 5, Copenhagen, 2100, Denmark
26Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA, 02215, USA
27Department of Earth System Science/University of California, Irvine, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, 92697-3100, USA
28NOAA/ESRL/GMD, 325 Broadway, Boulder, 80305, USA
29Environmental Studies Department, UC Santa Cruz, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz, CA, 95064, 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. 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.
Citation: Whelan, M. E., Lennartz, S. T., Gimeno, T. E., Wehr, R., Wohlfahrt, G., Wang, Y., Kooijmans, L. M. J., Hilton, T. W., Belviso, S., Peylin, P., Commane, R., Sun, W., Chen, H., Kuai, L., Mammarella, I., Maseyk, K., Berkelhammer, M., Li, K.-F., Yakir, D., Zumkehr, A., Katayama, Y., Ogée, J., Spielmann, F. M., Kitz, F., Rastogi, B., Kesselmeier, J., Marshall, J., Erkkilä, K.-M., Wingate, L., Meredith, L. K., He, W., Bunk, R., Launois, T., Vesala, T., Schmidt, J. A., Fichot, C. G., Seibt, U., Saleska, S., Saltzman, E. S., Montzka, S. A., Berry, J. A., and Campbell, J. E.: Reviews and Syntheses: Carbonyl Sulfide as a Multi-scale Tracer for Carbon and Water Cycles, Biogeosciences Discuss.,, in review, 2017.
Mary E. Whelan et al.
Mary E. Whelan et al.
Mary E. Whelan et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Measurements of the trace gas carbonyl sulfide (OCS) are helpful in determining 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 then mostly 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 determining photosynthesis...