Usually, talk of carbon sequestration focuses on plants: forests storing carbon in the trunks of massive trees, algae blooming and sinking to the seabed, or perhaps peatlands locking carbon away for tens of thousands of years.
While it’s true that plants take up large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, the rocks themselves mediate a great deal of the carbon cycle over geological timescales. Processes like volcano eruptions, mountain building and erosion are responsible for moving carbon through Earth’s atmosphere, surface and mantle.
In March 2019, a team led by UC Santa Barbara’s Francis Macdonald published a study proposing that tectonic activity in the tropics, and subsequent chemical weathering by the abundant rainfall, could account for the majority of carbon capture over million-year timeframes.
Now, Macdonald, doctoral student Eliel Anttila and their collaborators have applied their new model to the emergence of the Southeast Asian archipelago — comprising New Guinea,