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Biogeochemistry is the study of how chemical elements flow through living systems and their physical environments. It investigates the factors that influence cycles of key elements such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous.
Understanding biosphere–atmosphere feedback loops can improve forecasts of climate and vegetation resilience. Analyses of satellite observations reveal that feedbacks are strong in regions that determine the net terrestrial carbon balance.
A proxy for the amount of carbon dioxide taken up by plants for photosynthesis has been used to estimate historical global uptake, revealing a large increase that might partly offset the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels. See Letter p.84
Organic carbon fluxes from glaciers are a key control on biogeochemical cycles in polar regions. Two analyses of carbon cycling in glaciers show the importance of glacier–surface microbial communities in setting these inputs.
Over 70% of the volcanism on Earth occurs beneath an ocean veil. Now, robotic- and fibre-optic-based technologies are beginning to reveal this deep environment and identify subaqueous volcanoes as rich sources of sulfur, carbon dioxide and life.