Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Down and dirty: Airborne ozone can alter forest soil


The industrial pollutant ozone, long known to be harmful to many kinds of plants, can also affect the very earth in which they grow.

Researchers at Michigan Technological University and the North Central Research Station of the USDA Forest Service have discovered that ozone can reduce soil carbon formation - a measure of the amount of organic matter being added to the soil. Their findings are published in the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Nature.

The scientists exposed forest stands to increased levels of two atmospheric pollutants, ozone and carbon dioxide. Soil carbon formation dropped off dramatically in the plots fumigated with a mix of ozone and carbon dioxide compared to carbon dioxide alone.

"This research shows that changes in atmospheric chemistry can cascade through the forest and affect soils," says Dr. Kurt Pregitzer, a coauthor of the Nature paper and a professor in Michigan Tech’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. "Reductions we have observed in plant growth under elevated ozone appear to result in similar reductions in soil carbon formation."

The findings could have implications for the health of forests in areas with high levels of ozone, says Dr. Wendy Loya, the lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral research scientist at Michigan Tech. "Under normal conditions, forest litter, which is made up of fallen leaves, twigs and dead roots, decomposes and releases carbon that is then stored in the soil," she says. "Under conditions of elevated ozone, the amount of soil carbon formed is reduced."

Because increased carbon dioxide tends to cause plants to grow more quickly and take in more carbon from the atmosphere, some scientists and policymakers have speculated that forests could become "carbon sinks," absorbing carbon dioxide and mitigating its greenhouse effects.

However, the soil in the plots exposed to an ozone/carbon dioxide mixture gained only half the carbon as plots fumigated with carbon dioxide alone. Thus, plants and soils may be less able to clean the air of excess carbon dioxide when ozone levels are high.

Ozone pollution occurs at levels known to be toxic to both plants and people in many parts of the United States and throughout the world. It is formed when chemicals produced by burning fossil fuels and from industrial processes react in the presence of sunlight and warm temperatures.

In addition to Loya and Pregitzer, other coauthors of the Nature article, "Reduction of Soil Carbon Formation by Tropospheric Ozone Under Elevated Carbon Dioxide," are Dr. John King, an assistant professor of ecosystems at Michigan Tech; and research ecologist Dr. Christian Giardina and ecologist Noah Karberg of the USDA Forest Service.

This research was supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science (BER: Program for Ecosystem Research and National Institute for Global Environmental Change), the USDA Forest Service (Northern Global Change and North Central Research Station), the National Science Foundation (DEB, DBI/MRI), and the USDA Natural Research Initiatives Competitive Grants Program.

The four-year study was conducted at Aspen FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment), the world’s largest, open-air climate-change research facility. Located in Rhinelander, Wis., Aspen FACE opens a window on the future of our northern forests and is the only FACE site where scientists can study the impact of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and ozone on forest ecosystems. For more information on Aspen FACE, contact its director, Dr. David Karnosky,

Aspen FACE is funded jointly by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science Program for Ecosystem Research and National Institute for Global Environmental Research; the National Science Foundation; Global Change Program, USDA Forest Service; North Central Research Station, USDA Forest Service; Michigan Technological University; the USDA National Research Initiative Program; Brookhaven National Laboratory; and Natural Resources Canada.

Marcia Goodrich | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars
20.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Algorithm could streamline harvesting of hand-picked crops
13.03.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>