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Ocean Carbon Capacities

The JPI Oceans Knowledge Hub Ocean Carbon Capacities will address and reduce uncertainties in understanding the ocean’s buffering and carbon storage capacities.


The JPI Oceans Knowledge Hub Ocean Carbon Capacities will address and reduce uncertainties in understanding the ocean’s buffering and carbon storage capacities.






    Nov 2020 - Dec 2023

    Type of action

    Knowledge Hub

    Lead country


    Co-lead countries



    Participating countries

    United Kingdom

    The Joint Action on Ocean Carbon Capacities will further the work on a marine carbon indicator and an information product with short data delay to improve carbon uptake calculations.  

    Effective linkages are needed between (emerging) knowledge, innovative approaches and techniques in assessing the Ocean Carbon Value Chain and its practical understanding, and possible uses within the policy context. The Joint Action Ocean Carbon Capacities, consisting of 16 JPI Oceans member countries, with an expert group of 27 experts, will assess the ocean carbon value chain and identify the most pressing needs in this field of research, proposing ideas for activities to our participating countries and having consultations with external experts.  


    All experts drafted an Action Plan. A proposed activity table identifies ways for moving forward based on the Action Plan.  

    • Action Areas: The Expert Group and participating countries identified two main lines of topics: geographical and thematic scope.  
      • The Baltic Outflow, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, and North Atlantic Ocean are covered geographically.  
      • The themes covered are Model Synthesis, Observing System Design, and Negative Emission Technologies/Carbon Dioxide Removal.  
    • Level of Engagement: Proposed activities in each of the Action Areas were categorised into three different investment levels for which JPI Oceans member countries can engage:  
      • Small-scale investments: Examples might include coordinating sampling programmes, training events, and transnational platform access.  
      • Medium-scale investments, e.g. extending sampling programmes, joint PhD studentships, and the participation of groups with specialist skills in a pre-existing programme that does not include such a component. 
      • Large-scale transformative investments to deliver one-off pieces of work of great scientific importance (e.g. coordinated studies to examine linkages between river forcing and the continental shelf pump).  
    • Developing a roadmap towards a marine carbon indicator. This is a high-level impact of the action.  
    • Supporting the JPI Oceans member countries in reporting on Sustainable Development Goal indicator 14.3 (ocean acidification) through a coordinated approach.  
    • Different activities can support the assessment and sustainable management and operation of an observation system that can quality control and report on the status of the ocean carbon system.  
    • An information product that can be reported yearly to the Conference of Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC. This product indicates an estimate of ocean carbon uptake based on data alone with a short (< 3 month) delay. The increased resilience and speed of the value chain will also allow research undertaken to understand the carbon sink to focus on the mechanisms driving its current operation rather than historical factors. It is suggested that the return on the investment required to create a sustained ocean carbon observing system is around 50- to 100-fold. 
    Why is this important?

    The recent version of the Global Carbon Budget released in December 2020 (Friedlingstein et al., 2020) estimates that the Ocean took up 23% of the CO2 humans released to the atmosphere over the 2010 to 2019 period. This uptake has slowed climate change and given us more time to adapt to and mitigate the consequences of climate change and to plan the transition to a net zero economy.  

    The future evolution of the Ocean Carbon sink will regulate the costs associated with the transition to a net zero economy and the timing of the interventions required. The costs associated with accelerating planned emission reductions and/or adaptation and mitigation measures in response to a reduced sink (or, conversely, the savings related to delaying them) are significant.  

    There is a solid economic argument favouring an observing system that can inform how the ocean carbon sink is evolving in near real-time. However, we are far from having a close real-time observing system. Still, key observing systems, such as one that has documented a 20-year increase in uptake in the North-East Atlantic (Macovei et al., 2020), are closing. Multinational observing programmes are reporting their results with 5+ year delays. The Joint Action on Ocean Carbon Capacities will further the work on a marine carbon indicator and an information product with short data delay to improve carbon uptake calculations.  

    Knowledge Hub Experts

    The Scientific Lead Expert of the Ocean Carbon Capacities Knowledge Hub is Richard Sanders, NORCE, Norway. 

    • Griet Neukermans, University of Ghent, Belgium
    • Thanos Gkritzalis, VLIZ, Belgium
    • Irena Ciglenečki-Jušić, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Croatia
    • Jun She, Danish Meteorological Institute, Denmark
    • Harald Hasler-Sheetal, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
    • Carolin Löscher, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
    • Silvie Lainela, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
    • Coralie Perruche, Mercator Ocean, France
    • Roland Séférian, Météo France, France
    • Marion Gehlen, LSCE, France
    • Toste Tanhua, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany
    • Reiner Steinfeldt, University of Bremen, Germany
    • Kostas Parinos, HCMR, Greece
    • Solveig Rosa Olafsdottir, Hafrannsóknastofnun, Iceland
    • Evin Mc Govern, Marine Institute, Ireland
    • Peter Croot, NUI Galway, Ireland
    • Roberto Bozzano, IAS-CNR, Italy
    • Michele Giani, OGS, Italy
    • Vanessa Cardin, OGS Trieste, Italy
    • Anna LuchettaI, SMAR-CNR, Italy
    • Richard Sanders, NORCE, Norway
    • Erik Sandquist, NORCE, Norway
    • Marcos Morente Fontela, UALG, Portugal
    • Melchor González-Davila, ULPGC, Spain
    • Fiz Fernández, IIM-CSIC, Spain
    • Xosé Antonio Padín, IIM-CSIC, Spain
    • Emma HuertasI, CMAN-CSIC, Spain
    • Emilie Breviere, SMHI, Sweden
    • Sam Dupont, Ghotenburg University, Sweden
    • Andrew Watson, University of Exeter, ICOS Ocean Thematic Centre (UK), United Kingdom
    • Jessica Thorn, University of Exeter, ICOS Ocean Thematic Centre (UK), United Kingdom