A recent decrease in Rocky Mountain snowpack has slowed the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide gases from forest soils into the atmosphere during the dead of winter, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.
Towers studded with climate instruments at the Niwot Ridge research site west of Boulder indicate CO2 winter emissions are slowing in the high country, a serindiptous finding that does little to bolster the declining environmental health picture of the Wests forests in recent years. (CU-Boulder)
Professor Russell Monson of CU-Boulders ecology and evolutionary biology department said the lack of snow has decreased the winter insulation of the soils, cooling them and slowing the metabolism of microbes that release large amounts of CO2. But the discovery of what Monson called a "serendipitous effect" of reduced snowfall does little to bolster the overall environmental health picture of the Wests mountain forests in recent years, he said.
"I view this as a small amount of good news in a large cloud of bad news," said Monson, chief author of a paper appearing in the Feb. 9 issue of Nature. "While winter CO2 emissions from forest soils have slowed, the lack of winter moisture is stressing the trees during the spring and summer and inhibiting the much larger amount of CO2 they absorb during their growing season," he said.
Russell Monson | EurekAlert!
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