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URBANCO2FLUX Report Summary

Project ID: 653950
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - URBANCO2FLUX (Quantifying the impact of the urban biosphere on the net flux of CO2 from cities into the atmosphere.)

Reporting period: 2015-09-07 to 2017-09-06

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Urbanized regions are responsible for a disproportionately large percentage (30-40%) of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, despite covering only 2% of the Earth’s surface area. As a result, policies enacted at the local level in these urban areas can, in aggregate, have a large global impact, both positive and negative. Worldwide, municipal governments have realized this fact and, understanding that they possess some control over large emitters through urban planning, permitting, municipal operations, and local ordinances, have implemented GHG reduction initiatives such as Covenant of Mayors and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability.

The urban biosphere results in the photosynthetic uptake of CO2 and green-space initiatives are often proposed as GHG reducing strategies, despite there being very little quantitative evidence for the effectiveness or efficiency of such strategies. Uncertainty in the time scales for respiration of carbon previously taken up through photosynthesis obscures the picture even further. Additionally, as the modern urban landscape is continually evolving, with green spaces and parks becoming a more integral component and with suburbs expanding outward from city centers into previously rural, agricultural, and natural areas, it is apparent that we lack the scientific understanding of how best to implement planning strategies that minimize the impact of such land-use changes on climate. With this project, I aim to equip myself with the knowledge to improve our scientific understanding of the impact of the urban biosphere on the net flux of CO2 from cities into the atmosphere.

The main obstacle in quantifying CO2 capture by vegetation is the fact that CO2 flux observations, are influenced only by the net biogenic flux and do not contain information about the separate photosynthetic and respiratory components. Atmospheric carbonyl sulfide (COS), however, can help with this distinction. COS is a potentially transformative tracer of photosynthesis because its variability in the atmosphere has been found to be influenced primarily by vegetative uptake, scaling linearly with gross primary production (GPP).

An optimization of ecosystem surface fluxes of COS using chemical transport models is expected to provide input on the following questions in ways that have previously been elusive:

• What is the global impact of urban/suburban ecosystems on atmospheric CO2?
• How will future shifts in land-use types and management practices in densely populated areas influence surface-atmosphere fluxes of CO2?

The overall objectives are to 1)learn how to use the atmospheric and chemical transport models to simulate COS fluxes, and use this method to be able to quantify the contribution of green spaces to reducing CO2 emissions at city level (phase one, 24 months, and 2) apply the expertise learned abroad in the European context to understand the biosphere-atmosphere interactions in cities in Europe (third year, phase two).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

So far, I have completed the first two years of the project at UC Merced, California, USA. During these two years, I have done the following:

Expertise acquired. I have become familiar with several atmospheric and chemical transport models (WRF, WRF-Chem, and STEM), which I have used to simulate COS fluxes over the San Francisco Bay area. I have successfully regridded emission inventories from global biosphere models and anthropogenic emission inventories using several tools such as IOAPI library utilities and ESMF developed by NOAA. I have compared model runs with observation measurements from several towers. I have learned how to use several graphic tools such as GraDs and NCL to communicate results. I am currently working on the submission of an article in which I use these methods for the case study city of Livermore in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Training. I have attended two training workshops: 1) one-week WRF workshop in Boulder, Colorado in January 2016, and 2)3-day WRF-Chem workshop in Boulder, Colorado in February 2017. I attended a PhD course “Stable Isotopes” of prof. M Vogel during the fall semester of 2015-2016 at UC Merced in order to understand the use of 14CO2 abundance to filter out the fossil fuel emission fluxes. I have also attended several workshops at UC Merced to improve teaching skills, such as “Promoting collaborative groups in large enrollment courses.”

Public Outreach. I have organized and coordinated a 3-day trip for 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders of the Sierra Foothills Charter School at the end of November 2016, with the objective to engage children in learning about climate change and its impact on ecosystems. The planning included a preparation of the curriculum to be developed through the activities. I have also taught two classes about climate change for the 5th-78th graders at the same school during the spring trimester in 2017. I was an invited guest at the Mariposa High School to give a lecture about interdisciplinary studies in the university for prospective junior and seniors in the spring of 2016.

Scientific dissemination. I was an invited guest for the seminar series of Environmental Systems at UC Merced, on May 4th 2017 entitled “Simulation of Carbonyl Sulfide (COS) to better understand the urban biosphere signal.” I have attended two conferences (AGU in San Francisco 12/2016 and GEIA in Hamburg 9/2017) in which I have presented posters and a short talk. I have also participated in the stakeholder workshop on urban agriculture and greenhouse roof tops in Barcelona 9/2017.

Deliverables. I have submitted the following deliverables in a timely fashion:1) career development plan (month 1), 2) data management plan (month 6), and 3) Documentation of Methods for Implementation in Return Phase (month 16).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

During the first two years of my Marie. S. Curie fellowship URBANCO2Flux at UC Merced, California, I have broadened the applicability of COS to urban areas, progressing beyond the state of the art. Using atmospheric and chemical transport models to simulate COS concentrations over the San Francisco Bay area, I have been able to partition net ecosystem exchange (NEE) into its photosynthetic and respiratory components (Villalba, 2017). Presently, we are still working on improving the code of the chemical transport model to better represent observations. During the second phase of my fellowship, I aim to use my newly-gained expertise in COS modeling, as well as the use of other models such as WRF-Chem, to determine the impact of the urban biosphere on the net flux of CO2 from cities into the atmosphere using Barcelona as my next case study. Furthermore, I have been able to obtain funding to begin building a team in my host institution (UAB) to develop this line of research during my return phase and onwards. I have been able to hire a 3-year postdoc through the P-Sphere fund, with the objective to quantifythe impact of GI’s on air quality, urban heat island phenomenon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fluxes through numerical models, life cycle analysis methodologies, as well as observed heat fluxes, air quality and meteorological variables. I have also obtained funding from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Industry for a PhD student, who will be developing anthropogenic emission inventories as input for chemical transport models, to reconcile with bottom-up approaches of GHG emissions.

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