National Geographic : 2004 Feb
So where is the miss ing carbon? Oceans and forests are absorb ing, at least for now, roughly half of the eight billion tons of carbon that humanity is pouring into the atmosphere each year. Even photosynthesiz ing bacteria living in a New Zealand thermal pool do their part absorbing CO 2 (above). The continued ability of sinks to absorb carbon may vanish if global warming per sists. Higher water temperatures would reduce the ability of oceans to dissolve CO2 , limiting the carbon available to phytoplankton, the aquatic plants that begin the food chain for creatures ranging from whales to sea urchins (left). Increased odds of drought and fire threaten the health of terrestrial sinks like a cedar forest (right). With rising temperatures, decomposition would quicken, releasing carbon faster from a decaying cow in Brazil (below) and a moldering leaf in an Amazon stream (below right).