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 Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The disappearance of common species
01.02.2018 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)

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: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

Im Focus: Autonomous 3D scanner supports individual manufacturing processes

Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).

Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fingerprints of quantum entanglement

16.02.2018 | Information Technology

'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers

16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>