Salt lake in Southern Russia
Micro-organisms in salt lakes produce chlorinated air pollutants
Salt lakes have a greater impact on climate change than was previously understood. This has been established by scientists from the UFZ Centre for Environmental Research (Umweltforschungszentrum Leipzig-Halle) together with colleagues from Austria, Russia and South Africa. They found evidence that bacteria in salt lakes produce substances which act as greenhouse gases and destroy the ozone layer. These substances are known as volatile halogenated hydrocarbons (VHHs). These spread world-wide through the atmosphere and also damage vegetation.
Scientists previously assumed that VHHs were produced almost exclusively through industrial processes. However, when the pollutant flows in southern Russia were analysed, it was found that there must be natural sources in addition to the industrial ones. This was indicated by increased concentrations of VHH degradation products, which were recorded by scientists in Antarctic ice some years ago. The ice examined was over 250 years old and dates from the pre-industrial age. A search for natural sources of VHHs by an international research group led by Dr Ludwig Weißflog of the UFZ succeeded for the first time in finding evidence of some of these compounds being formed naturally by salt-loving micro-organisms in salt lakes.
Doris Boehme | alfa
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