Carbon sinks: What are they?

  • A recent study published in Carbon Balance and Management, unearthed the amazing ability of Amazon forest in absorbing the carbon emitted nine amazon nations.
  • The forests, which act as carbon sink, have absorbed about 430 million tonnes of carbon emitted since the 1980s, each year, the study authors said.
  • The Amazon rainforest’s carbon sink, also known as carbon sequestration, is the process by which the forest removes and stores carbon from the atmosphere.

A carbon dioxide (CO2) sink

  • A carbon dioxide (CO2) sink is a carbon reservoir.
  • The sinks include forests, oceans, soil and plants and other organisms that use photosynthesis to remove carbon from the atmosphere by incorporating it into biomass.

Carbon sequestration:

  • Carbon sequestration is the term describing processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere.

 How is this achieved?

  • Plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthsis, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
  • Some of the carbon is transferred to soil as plants die and decompose in the form of organic matter.
  • Marine animals also take up the gas for photosynthesis, while some carbon dioxide simply dissolves in the seawater

In risk

  • But due to human activities such as deforestation and weather changes, the sinks are dying.
  • The sponges are becoming weak.
  • It becomes imperative to reduce our carbon footprint and simultaneously improve conditions of carbon sinks.

Artificial sink

  • Scientists are also looking at ways to develop artificial sinks to capture carbon. How about artificial trees.
  • In 2012, scientists from Columbia University came up with a technique to develop ‘artificial trees’. Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University,designed an artificial tree that passively soaks up carbon dioxide from the air using “leaves” that are 1,000 times more efficient than true leaves that use photosynthesis.
  • Capturing and storing CO2 by injection into the ocean floor or underground empty rock formations that used to hold fossil fuels and replicating the natural process of mineral carbonation that uses CO2 to transform natural minerals into carbonate rocks like limestone, are some of the other ways that are being explored.


  • Public awareness of the significance of CO2 sinks has grown since passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which promotes their use as a form of carbon offset.
  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005. There are currently 192 parties to the Protocol.
  • It is estimated that forests absorb between 10 and 20 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare each year, through photosynthetic conversion into starch, cellulose, lignin, and wooden biomass.

Source: The Hindu


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