Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Combining global environmental changes yields surprising ecosystem response

06.12.2002


Scientists have discovered that elevated atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) can suppress plant growth when increases of this important greenhouse gas are combined with a broad suite of already-occurring environmental changes. According to Christopher Field, project leader and director of the new Department of Global Ecology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, "We are now getting a much richer picture of ecosystem responses to global environmental changes, and the traditional view that elevated CO2 always stimulates plant growth simply isn’t correct." The research is published in the December 6, 2002, issue of Science.

Many past studies of global-change impacts on plants and ecosystems have focused on responses to increases in atmospheric CO2. But realistically, global changes are much more than just elevated CO2. They include global warming, altered rainfall, and increases in biologically available nitrogen compounds produced during fossil-fuel combustion. These other global changes can have major impacts on plants and ecosystems. A new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Nature Conservancy, and Stanford University shows, for the first time, how these other global changes alter the response of a natural ecosystem to increased atmospheric CO2. According to lead author Rebecca Shaw, "In the third year of the experiment, plant growth increased in the plots treated with CO2 alone, as in many other experiments. It also increased in plots exposed to the other global changes--warming, increased precipitation, and fertilizing with nitrogen --alone or in combination. But, when we added carbon dioxide, the effect of the other treatments was suppressed. The elevated CO2 in this situation pushed the response back toward the initial conditions."

Over the last hundred years, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 30%. The planet has warmed by about 1 ºF. Rainfall has increased in some regions and decreased in others. And human actions have more than doubled inputs of biologically available nitrogen. Elevated atmospheric CO2 increases plant growth in many experiments, but most past experiments studied impacts of CO2 alone or in combination with one other factor. The results of the Carnegie-led experiment reveal new dimensions of ecosystem responses to global change. In the California grassland studied by this team, elevated CO2 suppresses plant growth in many treatments, especially treatments where growth at normal CO2 is fastest. Field noted, "When we look at impacts of realistic global changes on whole ecosystems, we see a broad range of responses. We do not yet know whether responses will be similar in other ecosystems, but our wide range of treatments helps open the door to understanding global-change impacts on ecosystems not yet studied."



This research was conducted over a three-year period at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. The small stature and short life span of the plants in this California grassland ecosystem make it a model system --one that is relatively simple to study, but with results that can be used to help interpret global-change responses of all the world’s land ecosystems.

Carnegie’s new Department of Global Ecology --launched July 1, 2002, on the campus of Stanford University -- grew from a century of ecological research at Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, also at Stanford. Using the latest technology--from satellite imagery to the tools of molecular biology--Carnegie scientists have been analyzing the complicated interactions of Earth’s land, atmosphere, and oceans. Building from biological details at the level of biochemistry and physiology, they link data and concepts from the microscopic to the global scales. The interdisciplinary Carnegie team views the planet through a biological lens to probe the function, assess the fragility, and explore the integration of the world’s ecosystems. They tackle issues such as the global carbon cycle, the role of land and oceanic ecosystems in regulating climate, the interaction of biological diversity with ecosystem function, and much more. According to Field, "We know too much about the influence of mechanisms that span biology, geology, and atmospheric sciences to stick with traditional disciplinary approaches for global studies. We need to establish a new, interdisciplinary scientific field--global ecology."


The Carnegie Institution of Washington (http://www.CarnegieInstitution.org) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments in the U.S.: Embryology, Geophysical Laboratory, Terrestrial Magnetism, The Observatories, Plant Biology, and Global Ecology.

Rebecca Shaw | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ciw.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>