Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

“Jekyll & Hyde” peat bogs turn up the heat

19.01.2007
“Air pollution makes peat bogs worsen global warming” claims Professor Chris Freeman, Royal Society Industry Fellow at Bangor University in an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).

We’re all used to the idea that rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air are causing our climate to change. And we’re used to the idea that it’s our burning of oil, gas and coal that’s driving the process. But this new study shows that extra CO2 is getting into the atmosphere by a completely different route - and it’s all our own fault.

For thousands of years, peat bog plants have taken up carbon dioxide from the air and turned it into peat (part-decomposed plants) that can reach several meters in depth. This is clearly a “good process” because it helps to remove the CO2 we release by burning fossil fuels.

“But now there are signs that nitrogenous gases in air pollution can make peat bogs give off more carbon dioxide than they lock-up”

The amount of carbon contained in peat is not far off the total amount of carbon dioxide in the entire atmosphere by some estimates. The carbon is held in place by what Prof Freeman described in Nature recently as an “Enzymic latch”. In this, special chemicals called “phenolics” are produced by peat-bog plants that can stop plants decomposing after they’ve died. “They’re a bit like preservatives in food” explained Prof Freeman “only in this case they’re preserving huge stores of carbon in the form of peat, rather than food”.

The study in PNAS tells how a network of scientists led by Chris Freeman and his colleague Luca Bragazza from Italy, have studied samples taken from bogs all around Europe with varying levels of nitrogen in their rainfall. The results showed very clearly that bog plants growing in areas with higher levels of nitrogen form less phenolics. This is worrying because the less phenolics the plants produce, the weaker the enzymic latch becomes. This can ‘jump-start’ decomposition back into life and cause a ‘Jekyll and Hyde transition’ in the character of our bogs: Instead of being “good guys” - helping us by taking up our fossil fuel CO2 emissions, they become “bad guys” and start giving off even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than they take up.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that these results suggest that even if we managed to stop all further fossil fuel CO2 emissions (by switching to biofuels for example), atmospheric CO2 levels would continue to rise due to CO2 release from peat bogs.

Clearly putting an end to global warming is going to be more difficult than we thought. We need to address other aspects of air pollution too.

Elinor Elis-Williams | alfa
Further information:
http://www.bangor.ac.uk/news/full.php?Id=127

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

Fraunhofer HHI with latest VR technologies at NAB in Las Vegas

24.04.2017 | Trade Fair 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

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>