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NASA Carbon Monitoring System Blueflux

Measuring greenhouse gases in Florida’s mangrove ecosystems




Point of Contacts:       

View of Mangroves from plane over South Florida. Photo courtesy of Pilot Lawrence Grippo.


  • Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas causing climate change, with concentrations now 50% higher than just 150 years ago. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas, with concentrations 150% higher than 150 years ago. Both gases are targeted by the 2016 UN Paris Agreement, which aims to immediately reduce emissions to zero in order to avoid further warming of our planet.
  • NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) was established in 2010 to provide prototype information on the carbon cycle to better understand carbon emissions and removal from the atmosphere and to provide a basis for carbon monitoring.
  • The NASA CMS program has supported science teams to use remote sensing and modeling to calculate where carbon is stored in vegetation and soils, how carbon is ‘released’ to the atmosphere from deforestation or fires, and then how carbon is returned back to the land via photosynthesis, or to the ocean via diffusion.
  • In 2020, NASA CMS funded the “Blueflux” project, a three-year $1.5 million project, that aims to develop a database of carbon dioxide and methane fluxes for mangrove ecosystems in Florida and in the Caribbean. 
  • Blueflux brings together scientists and engineers from the Earth Sciences Division at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Yale University, Eastern Carolina University and Florida International University, to carry out measurements all the way from the individual leaf to an aircraft flying 300-feet overhead to instruments facing Earth from the International Space Station.


Why are we doing this?

  • Since the 1980s, the area coverage of mangroves around the globe has shrunk by half because of development, deforestation, increasing hurricane frequency, and sea-level rise.
  • Mangroves protect shorelines from erosion and storm surge, provide habitat for fish and birds, and are one of the most productive ecosystems for storage of large amounts of carbon.
  • Mangroves are part of ‘blue carbon’ initiatives whereby their restoration can help remove carbon from the atmosphere, while providing a range of other societal and biodiversity services.
  • In addition to taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, mangroves ecosystems produce methane in the oxygen-deprived soils, and potential in their stems, and this methane is emitted into the atmosphere.
  • Very few studies have measured both carbon dioxide and methane over mangrove ecosystems, and this information is valuable for understanding the total climate benefit of restoration as well as how mangrove greenhouse gas emissions are changing across the landscape and over time.


BlueFlux Team and Stakeholders, during the annual Science Team Meeting in September 2023.


How are we doing this?

  • Scientists and engineers from NASA’s Earth Science Division at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and university partners are leading several teams that will make measurements in southern Florida.
  • The airborne flux team (GSFC and Dynamic Aviation) will be based out of Homestead, Florida, and will conduct low-level flights over Everglades and Big Cypress National Parks to measure carbon dioxide and methane concentrations and emission/uptake rates.
  • The vegetation structure team (GSFC and Eastern Carolina University) will measure mangrove structure and health by combining ground-based laser scanners with information from the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation mission (GEDI), a laser-based instrument onboard the International Space Station.
  • The field survey team (Yale University) will measure carbon dioxide and methane coming from soil, water, and plant stems. They will also analyze the chemistry of mangrove waterways.
  • Collaborators from Florida International University, a minority serving institution, will provide support via a long-term ground network of carbon dioxide and methane flux measurements
  • Teams include a unique and diverse mix of students and faculty from the three Universities and scientists and engineers from NASA.
Map of flight lines for each deployment during the campaign. Map courtesy of Erin Delaria.
Chamber measurement being collected in ghost forest site.
Team members collecting ground measurements in Everglades National Park.


What happens next?

  • The March 2022 Blueflux campaign is the first of 5 field campaigns that will take place at different times of year over 2022 and 2023.
  • Data will be analyzed and assessed to answer key questions and hypotheses, and to help inform the future campaigns.
  • Scientists will work with stakeholders involved with mangrove conservation and restoration to support their activities and further refine research objectives.