Land Ocean CArbon TransfEr (LOCATE)

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre
Department Name: Science and Technology


Our climate, and hence our lifestyle and economy, is profoundly influenced by the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, which regulates the amount of heat which arrives on earth from the sun that returns to outer space. Human activities such as land clearance and the burning of fossil fuels have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by about 40% in the last 250 years, with most of this increase occurring since the Second World War. This has caused a measurable increase in our temperature, with many of the warmest years on record occurring in the last decade. For this reason our interest is now firmly focused on other natural parts of the carbon cycle, in particular other reservoirs of carbon which are currently locked away from the atmosphere but which might enter the atmosphere as climate changes. One key pool is soil carbon - soils across the globe contain about 4 times as much carbon as the fossil fuel carbon which to date has entered the atmosphere via combustion, with this pool being largest at high latitudes such as northern Scotland. The British pool of soil carbon is a large element of our 'natural capital' - the value that the ecosystem represents to us. It is so large that restoring some damaged elements of it, such as upland peat bogs, would probably save us 570 million pounds over the next 40 years in carbon values alone. Each year some of this leaches into rivers and streams, with the concentration of carbon in rivers gradually increasing in Britain and Europe. As this material gets into estuaries and coastal waters some of it gets returned to the atmosphere when bacteria use it to grow or when it's destroyed by sunlight, some is buried and some enters the open ocean. We don't understand what controls these various processes, so aren't currently in a position to say how they will change into the future. For these reasons we plan to undertake a programme called LOCATE, which will establish the current status of our peatland stocks is (how much soil carbon is getting into our rivers and estuaries), and then determine what happens to this material in our estuaries (including measuring the key processes). Based on this we will do some accurate up to date carbon accounts for the GB landmass and also produce some simple mathematical equations describing what happens to soil organic matter in our rivers and estuaries. These equations will then be embedded into a much larger model of the Earth System so that we can begin to answer questions about the long term fate of the soil organic carbon pool over the next 50 or 100 years.

Planned Impact

We identify three key non - academic constituencies who we will liase with regarding LOCATE outcomes; 1) the IPCC process, 2) the general public, 3) Government departments and agencies, NGOs, charities and landowners who make decisions regarding land and river management across GB.

We will engage with these groups in the following ways

The IPCC process.
1) By delivering up to date estimates of carbon losses from GB soils and the consumption of this material in GB estuaries.
2) By informing the ongoing development of the NERC Met Office UK Earth System Model (ESM), the UK's platform for future IPCC assessments. Colin Jones (Head of the UKESM project) and policy makers from DECC have agreed to attend LOCATE annual meetings to gain early sight of our key results.
3) By publishing high profile papers. We target a publication in Nature or Science in 2018 describing the whole GB budget for organic carbon resulting from WP1 and a further high profile paper describing the future evolution of GB soil organic carbon stocks based on LOCATE modelling by 2020.

The general public We will communicate directly with the media via targeted release of information to our extensive network of media contacts. In addition we will use the established web portal alpha galileo to inform elements of the specialist science press with whom we do not have direct contact. Such interactions have most recently lead to short films shot by Reuters (for example which deals with our current large grant COMICS).

We will build a project website at NOC. It will include outward facing pages designed to engage the general public, including school children. We will also reach these constituencies via the annual NOC Open Day during 'Science Week' attended by 2000 -3000 young people and their parents.

We will establish a twitter account, to which individual scientists can contribute short updates about field work, interesting research findings etc. Blogs from research field trips will give more detailed information, with Twitter drawing attention to key blog entries. We will also attend the pint of science events ( delivering talks such as the one shown here

3) Land Managers We will engage with this group at our annual meeting when we plan a whole day devoted to translating LOCATE outcomes into useful information from stakeholders. Stakeholders who have committed to attending LOCATE meetings include Department of Energy and Climate Change, Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs, Forestry Commission, International Union for the Conservation of Nature Peatland Programme, Natural Resources Wales, the Rivers Trust, Rothamsted research, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Water, the James Hutton Institute, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, the Environment Agency and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science. In addition Sanders is the UK Stakeholder for the Integrated carbon observing system, an EU ESFRI project which includes terrestrial greenhouse gas research. As part of this he recently presented ICOS at the Marine Science Coordination Committee and has now been asked to assist DEFRA in liasing with UK Gov departments including DECC, BIS, DoT, and possibly the FCO and Met Office around greenhouse gas issues. LOCATE will clearly inform this process.



Richard Sanders (Principal Investigator)
Barry Rawlins (Co-Investigator) orcid
Alejandro Jose Souza (Co-Investigator)
Donald Monteith (Co-Investigator)
Bryan Spears (Co-Investigator)
Jason Holt (Co-Investigator)
Vassilis Kitidis (Co-Investigator)
Claire Evans (Co-Investigator)
Christopher Vane (Co-Investigator)
Edwin Christopher Rowe (Co-Investigator)
Daniel Joseph Lapworth (Co-Investigator) orcid
Christopher Pearce (Co-Investigator)
Victoria Anne Bell (Co-Investigator)
Sinhue Torres-Valdes (Co-Investigator)
Yuri Artioli (Co-Investigator)
Nancy Dise (Co-Investigator)
Socratis Loucaides (Co-Investigator)
Ricardo Javier Torres (Co-Investigator)
Daniel J Mayor (Co-Investigator)
Rachael Beale (Co-Investigator)
Jeremy Blackford (Co-Investigator)
Martin Arundell (Co-Investigator)
Laurent Olivier Amoudry (Co-Investigator)
Philip David Nightingale (Co-Investigator) orcid
Luca Polimene (Co-Investigator)
Thomas Robb Anderson (Co-Investigator)
Christopher David Evans (Co-Investigator)
Kerry Dinsmore (Co-Investigator)
Douglas Ballantine Clark (Co-Investigator)
Andrew Paul Rees (Co-Investigator)
Daren Clive Gooddy (Co-Investigator) orcid
Gregory John Slavik (Researcher)
Gareth Farr (Researcher)
Christopher Alan Balfour (Researcher)
B P Marchant (Researcher)
Christopher Leonard Cardwell (Researcher) orcid
Sarah Louise Wakelin (Researcher)
Anna Lichtschlag (Researcher)
Louise Maurice (Researcher)
Nicole Antoinette Lucie Archer (Researcher)
James Duncan Harle (Researcher)
Lei Wang (Researcher)