Clemson University scientists are shedding new light on how invasion by exotic plant species affects the ability of soil to store greenhouse gases. The research could have far-reaching implications for how we manage agricultural land and native ecosystems.
In a paper published in the scientific journal New Phytologist, plant ecologist Nishanth Tharayil and graduate student Mioko Tamura show that invasive plants can accelerate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon stored in soil into the atmosphere.
Clemson research shows that invasive plants, such as Japanese knotweed, can accelerate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon stored in soil into the atmosphere.
Since soil stores more carbon than both the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined, the repercussions for how we manage agricultural land and ecosystems to facilitate the storage of carbon could be dramatic.
In their study, Tamura and Tharayil examined the impact of encroachment of Japanese knotweed and kudzu, two of North America’s most widespread invasive plants, on the soil carbon storage in native ecosystems.
They found that kudzu invasion released carbon that was stored in native soils, while the carbon amassed in soils invaded by knotweed is more prone to oxidation and is subsequently lost to the atmosphere.
The key seems to be how plant litter chemistry regulates the soil biological activity that facilitates the buildup, composition and stability of carbon-trapping organic matter in soil.
“Our findings highlight the capacity of invasive plants to effect climate change by destabilizing the carbon pool in soil and shows that invasive plants can have profound influence on our understanding to manage land in a way that mitigates carbon emissions,” Tharayil said.
Tharayil estimates that kudzu invasion results in the release of 4.8 metric tons of carbon annually, equal to the amount of carbon stored in 11.8 million acres of U.S. forest.
This is the same amount of carbon emitted annually by consuming 540 million gallons of gasoline or burning 5.1 billion pounds of coal.
“Climate change is causing massive range expansion of many exotic and invasive plant species. As the climate warms, kudzu will continue to invade northern ecosystems, and its impact on carbon emissions will grow,” Tharayil said.
The findings provide particular insight into agricultural land-management strategies and suggest that it is the chemistry of plant biomass added to soil rather than the total amount of biomass that has the greatest influence on the ability of soil to harbor stable carbon.
“Our study indicates that incorporating legumes such as beans, peas, soybeans, peanuts and lentils that have a higher proportion of nitrogen in its biomass can accelerate the storage of carbon in soils,” Tharayil said.
Thrarayil’s lab is following up this research to gain a deeper understanding of soil carbon storage and invasion.
Tharayil leads a laboratory and research team at Clemson that studies how the chemical and biological interactions that take place in the plant-soil interface shape plant communities. He is also the director of Clemson’s Multi-User Analytical Laboratory, which provides researchers with access to highly specialized laboratory instruments.
This research was partially supported by a USDA Grant (2009-35320-05042) and an NSF Grant (DEB-1145993). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Nishanth Tharayil | Eurek Alert!
Savannahs help to slow climate change
22.05.2015 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
Surviving Harsh Environments Becomes a Death-Trap for Specialist Corals
21.05.2015 | University of Southampton
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.
RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...
Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a gel filled with toxin-absorbing nanosponges that could lead to an effective treatment for skin and wound infections caused by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This "nanosponge-hydrogel" minimized the growth of skin lesions on mice infected with MRSA - without the use of antibiotics. The researchers recently published their findings online in Advanced Materials.
To make the nanosponge-hydrogel, the team mixed nanosponges, which are nanoparticles that absorb dangerous toxins produced by MRSA, E. coli and other...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
22.05.2015 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2015 | Information Technology
22.05.2015 | Materials Sciences