A new Yale-led study challenges the long-held assumption that climate is the primary driver of how quickly organic matter decomposes in different regions, a key piece of information used in formulating climate models.
In a long-term analysis conducted across several sites in the eastern United States, a team of researchers found that local factors — from levels of fungal colonization to the specific physical locations of the wood — play a far greater role than climate in wood decomposition rates and the subsequent impacts on regional carbon cycling.
Researchers distributed 160 blocks of pine tree wood across five sub-regions of temperate forest in the eastern United States to determine the affect of local factors on carbon cycling.
Because decomposition of organic matter strongly influences the storage of carbon, or its release into the atmosphere, it is a major factor in potential changes to the climate.
The findings underscore a key limitation of using aggregated data across wide geographic areas to predict future climate change, said Mark A. Bradford, an assistant professor of terrestrial ecosystem ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
They also suggest that better identifying and measuring such hyper-local ecological factors could significantly improve the effectiveness of climate change projections, he adds.
“We’re reaching the wrong conclusion about the major controls on decomposition because of the way we’ve traditionally collected and looked at our data,” Bradford said. “That in turn will weaken the effectiveness of climate prediction.”
It has long been thought that climate is the predominant factor controlling decomposition, mainly because warmer temperatures increase the activity levels of the “decomposer” organisms, such as microbes, that break down dead organic matter.
While scientific studies have revealed the critical importance of climate and temperature in determining decomposition rates across regional and global scales, the findings are often based on the mean response of decomposition across large areas.
According to Bradford, the use of mean responses can mask the local-scale information, such as the abundance of soil fungi and animals, which may be more important in governing the release of terrestrial carbon.
To better assess the importance of those local effects, the researchers distributed 160 blocks of pine tree wood across five sub-regions of temperate forest in the eastern United States — from Connecticut to northern Florida — and then monitored the decay that occurred over 13 months.
They selected similar forest types in order to focus on major differences in the effect of climate across the regional gradient. (The average annual temperature in southern New England is about 11 degrees Celsius cooler than Florida.) But within each of the five sub-regions they placed the wood blocks in different types of terrain to evaluate the effects of local versus regional factors on decomposition and capture the variability found in forest environments.
“Most people would try to make sure everything was as standard as possible,” Bradford said. “We said, ‘Well, let’s generate as much variation as possible.’ So we put some blocks on south-facing slopes, where they would be warmer in the summer, and others on north-facing slopes where it’s colder. We put some on top of ridges and others next to streams where it was wetter.”
After 13 months, they measured how much carbon had been lost, whether absorbed by the microbes growing on the wood or directly into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
According to their analysis, local-scale factors explained about three-quarters of the variation in wood decomposition, while climate explained only about one-quarter, contrary to the expectation that climate should be the predominant control.
Since those local factors likely are the primary drivers of decomposition rates, Bradford said, they should be better documented and integrated into climate models.
“The [climate] modelers know that they can only produce models based on the data sets that we give them,” he said. “So the message for field ecologists like me is to go out and get much richer data sets with much more information. We shouldn’t aggregate away information. We should make measurements at those local scales to capture all of the importance processes that affect ecosystem functioning.
“Then the modelers will have far richer data sets to test their models against and see if they work,” he adds.
The study was a collaboration among researchers from Yale; State University of New York-Buffalo; the Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research; Columbia University; and the University of Central Florida.
Co-authors of the study, “Climate fails to predict wood decomposition at regional scales,” include Thomas W. Crowther, Daniel S. Maynard, and Emily E. Oldfield of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology and the Yale Climate & Energy Institute.
To read the complete article, visit: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2251.html
Kevin Dennehy | Eurek Alert!
A new 3D viewer for improved digital geoscience mapping
20.09.2016 | Uni Research
The significance of seaweed
16.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.
Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...
At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.
In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...
Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.
K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...
23.09.2016 | Event News
20.09.2016 | Event News
16.09.2016 | Event News
23.09.2016 | Life Sciences
23.09.2016 | Health and Medicine
23.09.2016 | Life Sciences