Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Accelerated global warming from nutrient shortages for trees and soils

28.11.2003


"We should not count on carbon storage by land ecosystems to make a massive contribution to slowing climate change," said Dr. Christopher Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution. "And lower storage of carbon in these ecosystems results in a faster increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading to more rapid global warming."

Future atmospheric levels of the notorious heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, remain a controversial topic among environmental scientists. Many researchers believe that increasing amounts of CO2, belched into the atmosphere by human fossil fuel use, will be captured through nature’s ability to lock up the carbon in soil organic matter and faster growing trees. But it’s not so simple. A new report, published in the November 28 Science, shows that the availability of nitrogen, in forms usable by plants, will probably be too low for large increases in carbon storage.

Ecosystems on land can store carbon, through bigger trees and more organic matter in soils, but shortages of mineral nutrients, especially nitrogen, curb potential future carbon storage. Several approaches to calculating ecosystem carbon storage, including some featured in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assume that nitrogen available to plants is abundant, even though current nitrogen limitation is widespread. "Realistic scenarios for future changes in nitrogen availability limit ecosystem carbon storage to the low end of the range presented in the recent IPCC report," says Field.



"In a garden limited by water, a gardener would not expect a big increase in growth from adding potassium. Similarly, plants in natural ecosystems limited by nitrogen may not grow much faster when they are exposed to increased levels of carbon dioxide," explained co-author Jeffrey Dukes. "Plants will need more nitrogen if they’re going to lock up more carbon. The models used by the IPCC just didn’t acknowledge that to a sufficient extent." Human activities tend to add biologically available nitrogen to ecosystems, but the additions are patchy in space and the added nitrogen can be rapidly lost. According to Field, "Even with generous assumptions about future increases in biologically available nitrogen, we still couldn’t find enough nitrogen to support the range of carbon storage discussed in the IPCC report."

These new findings highlight the challenge of limiting global warming. Dukes concludes, "Our study suggests that we’ve been counting too much on the natural ecosystems to bail us out of our carbon emissions problem. The natural systems can help, but there are limits to their response. We have to make sure these limits are incorporated into our models."


Authors on this study were Bruce Hungate, Merriam-Powell Center for Environment Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff; Jeffrey Dukes, M. Rebecca Shaw and Christopher Field, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution, Stanford, CA, and Yiqi Luo, Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman. This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington (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.: Plant Biology and Global Ecology in Stanford, CA.; The Observatories in Pasadena, CA, and Chile; Embryology, in Baltimore, MD.; and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, DC.

Dr. Christopher Field | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.CarnegieInstitution.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

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: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>