“The carbon that will be released as these trees decompose is enough to cancel out an entire year’s worth of net gain by all U.S. forests. And this is only from a single storm,” says Chambers, lead author of an article detailing the team’s findings, “Hurricane Katrina’s Carbon Footprint on Gulf Coast Forests,” published in the Nov. 16 issue of the journal Science.
The study was carried out by researchers at Tulane and the University of New Hampshire. Using NASA satellite sensing technology, ecological field investigations and statistical analysis, the investigators estimate that 320 million large trees were killed or severely damaged by the August 2005 storm.
As the Earth’s climate warms, evidence is accumulating that hurricanes, tornados and frontal systems will gain in energy, producing more violent storms and stronger winds. Increased wind disturbance will cause more tree mortality and damage, and this dead wood will release additional carbon to the atmosphere, potentially amplifying global warming.
Young, healthy forests play a vital role in removing carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere by photosynthesis, and are thus important in the battle against warming. These young forests are valued as “carbon sinks,” removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it as growing vegetation.
The total amount of carbon stored in a forest is the result of the growth of new and existing trees, and tree death from age and disturbance. Dead trees and downed wood decompose and release carbon to the atmosphere. Thus, an increase in disturbance frequency, for example from more powerful storms, can tilt this balance toward the loss side, reversing the storing process and becoming a source of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
This increase in carbon emissions can enhance global warming in what is termed by scientists a “positive feedback mechanism.” Increased carbon dioxide warms the climate, causing more intense storms and elevated tree mortality, releasing yet more carbon dioxide and further warming the climate.
Arthur Nead | EurekAlert!
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At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
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Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
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