Project leader Professor Pete Millard of Aberdeen’s Macaulay Institute explains: “Globally, soils contain over 300 times the amount of carbon released each year due to the burning of fossil fuels, and this carbon has until now, been safely locked up below ground.
“As the planet is warming up, this carbon is being released from the soil into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but there are in fact two types of carbon —‘new’ carbon, which has recently entered the soil through vegetation, and ‘old’ carbon, which has been locked up in the soil for years.
“It is the amount of this old carbon being lost as CO2 that has the biggest climate change effect,” he added, “as it signifies the soil changing from being a carbon-store to a source of carbon — a carbon-emitter.”
Measuring the loss of carbon from soils is relatively straightforward, but determining how much is from this old carbon has up to now proved very difficult. Now this joint project between the Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen and Landcare Research, New Zealand, has developed a method to measure the release of old carbon from soils.
Their approach is based upon the measurement of very small differences in the amount of an isotope, carbon-13, which is naturally present in all carbon dioxide, including that released by soils into the atmosphere.
"We are excited because it's very relevant at the moment. We need to predict how the climate is going to change and of course that's related to the atmosphere, the vegetation and the soil," said Professor Millard.
Funded by the Scottish government and the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden fund, the researchers have been working on this for three years, and now for the first time, they have been able to differentiate how much old, historical carbon is being released from soils.
"The implications of knowing this are very important and it will enable us to determine for the first time what the consequences of changes in land use might be for climate change," said Professor Millard. "As more CO2 is released from the soil, the temperature is going to increase further — it could almost be a runway reaction.”
Also working on the project are David Whitehead, John Hunt and Margaret Barbour from Landcare Research, NZ.
Dave Stevens | alfa
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
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.
A warming planet
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.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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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