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Mississippi Basin Carbon Project Science Plan

U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-177
Version 1.0

By Eric T. Sundquist, Robert F. Stallard, Norman B. Bliss, Helaine W. Markewich, Jennifer W. Harden, Milan J. Pavich, and Walter E. Dean, Jr.


Understanding the carbon cycle is one of the most difficult challenges facing scientists who study the global environment. Lack of understanding of global carbon cycling is perhaps best illustrated by our inability to balance the present-day global CO2 budget. The amount of CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels and by deforestation appears to exceed the amount accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans. The carbon needed to balance the CO2 budget (the so-called "missing" carbon) is probably absorbed by land plants and ultimately deposited in soils and sediments. Increasing evidence points toward the importance of these terrestrial processes in northern temperate latitudes. Thus, efforts to balance the global CO2 budget focus particular attention on terrestrial carbon uptake in our own North American "backyard."

The USGS Mississippi Basin Carbon Project conducts research on the carbon budget in soils and sediments of the Mississippi River basin. The project focuses on the effects of land-use change on carbon storage and transport, nutrient cycles, and erosion and sedimentation throughout the Mississippi River Basin. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the interactions among changes in erosion, sedimentation, and soil dynamics. The project includes spatial analysis of a wide variety of geographic data sets, estimation of whole-basin and sub-basin carbon and sediment budgets, development and implementation of terrestrial carbon-cycle models, and site-specific field studies of relevant processes. The USGS views this project as a "flagship" effort to demonstrate its capabilities to address the importance of the land surface to biogeochemical problems such as the global carbon budget.


  1. Open-File Report 98-177 - HTML file

This open-file report is available for purchase from:

USGS Information Services, Box 25286,
Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225
telephone: 303-202-4210; e-mail:


This report is preliminary and has not been reviewed for conformity with U.S. Geological Survey editorial standards or with the North American Stratigraphic code. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. Although all data and software released with this open file have been used by the USGS, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by the USGS as to the accuracy of the data and related materials and (or) the functioning of the software.

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Last modified: 03.21.01 (krw)