Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find acid rain an unlikely ally in the battle against a greenhouse gas

05.11.2004


Recently scientists from NASA and Open University in the United Kingdom set out to study how acid rain affects the methane gas that comes from wetlands in the U.S., England and Sweden.

Scientists went into natural wetlands because although most methane is produced by human activities, a large amount actually comes from natural wetlands. The concern with methane is that it’s a greenhouse gas that contributes to warming our planet. The researchers discovered that low levels of sulfate, which is in acid rain, actually block some bacteria found in wetlands from producing methane. Dr. Vincent Gauci of Open University, United Kingdom, lead author of the study, said "We wouldn’t want to give the impression that acid rain is a good thing - it has long been known that acid rain damages natural ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes. But our findings suggest that small amounts of pollution may also have a positive effect in blocking this important greenhouse gas."

In the wetland study areas, scientists applied several quantities of sulfate, similar to the amounts found in acid rain. The results, acquired over several years, showed that low doses of sulfate reduced methane emissions by 30 to 40 percent. What determines how much methane is produced in wetlands? The answer lies under the microscope. Carbon, heat and moisture are known to influence methane production by single-celled bacteria called Archaea. Under normal conditions, these bacteria "eat" carbon in the soil for energy and release methane as a byproduct. But, many types of bacteria thrive in the wetland environment. When sulfate from acid rain is in wetlands, another type of bacteria that reduce sulfates can out-compete the Archaea, and help limit the amount of methane they produce.



Wetlands may produce as much as 320 million tons of methane annually but only about half of that, or 160 million tons, gets into the atmosphere. The other 160 million tons never makes it. That’s because it is destroyed when it mixes with oxygen as it moves through the soils from wet to dry and up to the surface. Despite the destruction of about half the methane produced, natural wetlands remain the single largest source of methane emissions, accounting for about one third of the global annual total from the Earth. "It’s a complicated problem because many factors from microscopic to global scales interact in these processes," said Elaine Matthews, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, and co-author of the study. The maximum emission of methane from wetlands occurs when conditions are warm and wet, while the biggest reduction in methane is achieved when the location of wetlands, sulfates in acid rain, high temperatures and substantial precipitation all come together.

"When we used all the field data with the NASA computer models and applied it to a global scale, it shows that the effect of acid rain from 1960 to 2030 actually reduces methane emissions to below pre-industrial levels," said Gauci. The effect more than compensates for the increase in methane emission that would be expected as wetlands become warmer. In this way, acid rain acts like a temporary lid on the largest methane source. However, experts expect methane emissions to increase over the entire 21st century in response to climate change.

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/acid_rain.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>