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What is a Carbon Dioxide Sink?

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  • Written By: J.Gunsch
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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A carbon dioxide sink is either a natural or artificial resource that captures and stores carbon dioxide. It is beneficial to the environment because it reduces the amount of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, which may otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

The process by which a carbon dioxide sink removes carbon from the air is termed carbon sequestration. During this processes, the carbon is separated and stored while leaving the oxygen. Trees and plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, sequestering the carbon and converting it into mass while releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is a natural gas that is produced by the respiration of animals, the decomposition of organic matter, and the burning of fossil fuels and wood. The problem that people currently face is the excessive combustion of fossil fuels, which overwhelms nature’s natural recycling process. A carbon dioxide sink, along with other aggressive conservation efforts, helps to reduce the increasing negative impact of global warming on the environment.

Natural carbon dioxide sinks include immature forests, oceans, and soil. While older mature, forests still require carbon dioxide for survival, they are not considered as useful for this purpose as immature forests are because young vegetation needs significantly more carbon dioxide to build its mass. Artificial sinks may involve sequestrating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in rock, injecting it deep into the oceans, or causing chemical reactions which change the carbon dioxide into less harmful compounds.

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The Kyoto Protocol allows countries to use large enough carbon dioxide sinks as a resource in which they can deduct their actual carbon dioxide emissions from. An example of this type would be large forested areas and reserves. The use of agricultural land as a sink is not currently permitted for this cap and trade system.

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