The increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the air are leading us to expect climate change with higher temperatures in the future. The principal cause is the combustion of fossil fuels, but there are other processes that can lead to increases in carbon dioxide as well. For thousands of years, plants in peat bogs and other fens have absorbed carbon dioxide from the air for their photosynthesis, binding it in the form of layers of peat that can reach depths of 10 meters. Such binding of carbon dioxide serves as a carbon trap and can counteract the release of carbon dioxide to some extent.
“Now there are signs that indicate that nitrogenous compounds in the air make peat bogs start to give off more carbon dioxide than they bind, and that they may tip over from being a carbon trap to being a carbon source, thereby aggravating the greenhouse effect instead,” says Håkan Rydin, professor of plant ecology, who directed the study.
The amount of carbon contained in peat layers is equivalent to 40-50 percent of the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The most important peat-forming plants are bog mosses (NOT the same as the reindeer lichens used in advent candle settings). Bog mosses have several unique properties. They soak up water like sponges, making the environment waterlogged and low on oxygen, which counteracts their being degraded by microorganisms and leads to the accumulation of plant remains in the form of peat. Another reason peat is formed is that bog mosses produce organic substances, such as polyphenols, that make them difficult to break down. They are therefore highly deficient in nutrition and are directly impacted by the amounts of nitrogen found in precipitation as a result of air pollution.
In the present study, a network of scientists show, from samples taken from bogs in Europe with varying levels of nitrogen in the precipitation, that bog mosses growing in areas with higher levels of nitrogen form smaller amounts of polyphenols and are therefore more susceptible to degradation by microorganisms than those growing in areas with low levels of nitrogen, such as the Nordic countries. This increased degradation entails that bogs give off more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
They have also found that precipitation with high levels of nitrogen promotes the growth of grass and sedge, which also occur on bogs. These plants do not add to peat build-up in the same way as bog mosses. All in all, this means that bogs can aggravate the greenhouse effect in areas with high levels of nitrogen in precipitation, by both giving off more and binding less carbon dioxide.
Anneli Waara | alfa
How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy