This is potentially a beneficial side effect of the high pollution levels China - the world’s largest producer of rice - is often associated with. Methane is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
“The reduction in pollution happens during a stage of the lifecycle when the rice plant is producing grain. This period is normally associated with around half of all methane emissions from rice and we found that simulated acid rain pollution reduced this emission by 24 per cent,” said Dr Gauci.
The project - funded by the Natural Environment Research Council - used rice soils and grain from Portuguese paddies. Soils from these paddies have been exposed to very little acid rain and are similar to Asian rice soils before they became polluted. To test the effects of acid rain, the researchers added frequent small doses of sulphate, which simulate acid rain experienced in polluted areas of China.
“We had similar results when exposing natural wetlands to simulated acid rain but this could be more important since natural wetlands are mostly located far from major pollution sources, whereas for rice agriculture, the methane source and the largest source of acid rain are both in the same region - Asia,” added Dr Gauci.
“We need to do further research but it looks like there could be a combination of processes at work. One line of investigation we’d like to confirm is that the sulfate component of acid rain may actually boost rice yields. This might, paradoxically, have the effect of reducing a source of food for the methane producing micro-organisms that live in the soil.”
This is because some sugars produced by rice plants are lost in the soil and micro-organisms feed on these sugars. But when the rice plant is producing grain, the carbohydrates are directed into grain production and away from soil so limiting the amount of food available for micro-organisms.
“There is also likely to be competition between these micro-organisms and sulphate-reducing bacteria. Normally in these conditions sulphate-reducers win which results in less methane.”
Dr Gauci added a note of caution to the results. “Acid rain is one of several pollution problems in Asia that need solving in the coming decades but we need to appreciate the potential consequences of that clean up, one of which could be an increase in methane emissions as the effect of the acid rain wears off.”
Marion O'Sullivan | alfa
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A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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