What are Carbon Sinks? How it impacts Climate Change?

Carbon sinks are carbon sinks, that is, spaces that absorb more carbon than they expel and therefore reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. It is for this reason that these spaces are very interesting when proposing mitigation and adaptation actions to climate change.

The main natural sinks are the oceans and forests. It is estimated that the oceans can absorb around 50% of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Organisms such as corals, plankton or algae are responsible for absorbing that carbon through photosynthetic activity. Forests are also great natural carbon deposits since the plant organisms that we find in these ecosystems absorb carbon dioxide to carry out photosynthesis.

In the fight against climate change, not only are human beings trying to counteract the effects of global warming with mitigation and adaptation measures, but nature itself has its weapons to try to prevent the average temperature of the planet from continuing to rise.

The oceans are the main carbon sinks. Source: Pixabay.

For this, there are carbon sinks, natural (oceans and forests) and artificial (certain technologies and chemical products) deposits that absorb and capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, thus reducing its concentration in the air.

What are Carbon Sinks

Carbon sinks are natural systems that absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The main natural carbon sinks are plants, the ocean and the soil. Plants take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to use in the process of photosynthesis; some of this carbon is transferred to the soil when plants die and decay.

The oceans are an important system for storing carbon from carbon dioxide. Seaweeds also take in this gas for photosynthesis, while some of the carbon dioxides simply dissolves in the seawater.

“Combined, Earth’s land and ocean sinks absorb around half of all carbon dioxide emissions from human activities,” said Paul Fraser of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

Carbon sinks in face of climate change

Carbon sinks are deposits in which this element accumulates. It is captured through different processes and later stored in these deposits for a very long period of time.

Carbon sinks exist naturally on our planet as part of the biogeochemical carbon cycle. A clear example of this is hydrocarbon deposits, formed from organic matter, with high carbon content.

Carbon sinks are a strategy to combat the high concentrations of atmospheric carbon currently recorded. In this way, it would be possible to capture and store larger amounts of CO2, and thus contain the advance of climate change.

Natural carbon sinks are degraded.

The general degradation of the planet’s ecosystems means that they lose their ability to perform one of the many functions they perform: carbon sequestration. The main natural carbon sinks on the planet are the oceans, forests and fertile soils.

The oceans are the main carbon collectors, mainly through plankton and corals. They absorb about 50% of atmospheric carbon. However, the oceans and corals are increasingly degraded.

Types of Carbon Sinks

The world’s main carbon sinks are soil, plants, and the ocean. Together, these environmental powerhouses naturally accumulate carbon from the atmosphere and store it for long periods of time.

How can we protect natural carbon sinks?


The world’s forests absorb 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. Yet despite its vital importance, an area the size of a football field is destroyed every second. Plants and forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, which is then deposited and stored in forest biomass, such as tree trunks, branches, roots, and leaves.


The Earth’s soil absorbs about a quarter of all human emissions each year. And a large part of this is stored in peat bogs or permafrost. Soils contain mineral particles, decomposed plant matter, air, water, and even living organisms.


The world’s oceans play an important role in carbon sequestration. Both by dissolving and absorbing CO2 from surface water, and through photosynthesis by phytoplankton, algae, and seagrasses. The ocean has absorbed about a quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere since we began burning fossil fuels for energy during the Industrial Revolution.

How to offset emissions in the future?

To reduce atmospheric concentrations of CO 2 it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, although different strategies can be applied in parallel. For this, reforestation is a technique that provides many benefits, as long as it is done properly.

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