COS: an open door into a future window

Two weeks ago I traveled to Hyytiälä, a fabulous field station 3 h north of Helsinki (Finland). The aim was to meet with about 30 other researchers, at first sight first sight, the group appeared quite heterogeneous, you could find physicists, chemists, mathematicians, atmospheric scientists, plant biologists… but a closer look revealed that all of us shared the same interest on one particular molecule: carbonyl sulphide (COS or OCS, I’ll come back to this). COS research has received exponential attention since we figured out we could use it as a proxy to estimate gross primary productivity (GPP), that is how much carbon our ecosystems are capable of sequestering and storing.

20160907_143952Jürgen Kesselemeier was in charge of opening the meeting with a brief history of our beloved molecule. It was a refreshing and different talk, personally, I realized how much of the things we though we had only ‘just discovered’, actually have been know for many many years. It also opened new questions and challenged well established paradigms. Ah! And it clearly showed how we are all wrong when we say ‘COS’, yet, by the end of the meeting I think we all left saying COS either way. The meeting continued the next day with talks by Dan Yakir, Mary Wehlan and myself. These talks focused on COS measurements at different scales (laboratory > ecosystem > region) and demonstrated that we must be doing something at least marginally OK for estimating GPP. The day continued with a long head-scratching session where we flagged all the problems we encounter when measuring/modelling COS and how we would like to solve them. Our first day finished with an immersion into the Finish culture: movie and (of course) sauna (swim in the lake included). On the second day, Elliot Campbell, Yuting Wang and Wu Sun took us on trip up and down different temporal and spatial scales. We moved from COS measurements that went from annual to MILLENNIA! and from a few square cm to the whole planet. In the afternoon we visited the SMEAR research station and admired their beautiful moss carpets (that might have been only me though). Then we shared experiences and results over the poster session and back to the sauna! On our third day we heard three talks by Yoko Katayama, Le Kuai and Sinnika Lennartz that challenged some of our current assumptions: COS can come out of microorganisms and our solution to the COS budget imbalance is not in the ocean.

20160907_133725This meeting was a great opportunity to meet with colleagues and discuss so many interesting topics. I left with the feeling that although we’ve advanced a lot in this topic there are still open questions that require further work, a great encouragement to keep on working with COS!

 

COS: an open door into a future window
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