Tropical rainforests have long been considered the Earth’s key ecosystem as they sequester a substantial amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby slowing down the increasing greenhouse effect and climate change.
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeo-chemistry in Jena, Germany, participated in a global research project that now shows that semi-arid ecosystems occupying the transition zone between rainforest and desert are as important as rainforests, dominating the ongoing increase in carbon dioxide sequestration by ecosystems globally as well as large fluctuations between wet and dry years.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) exists naturally in the atmosphere, but it is also the greenhouse gas that is most altered by human activities, most notably fossil fuel combustion and tropical deforestation. The Earth’s vegetation reduces the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations by sequestering over a quarter of anthropogenic emissions.
This so-called carbon sink results from the balance between plant photosynthesis, which annually takes up a significant fraction of the CO2 in the atmosphere, and a slightly smaller quantity of CO2 that is released back to the atmosphere through life processes (respiration) and wild fires.
The vegetation’s resultant carbon sink slows down the rate of increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and helps mitigate global climate change, thus providing a vital ecosystem service.
In an international study released in Science this week, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, coauthored an international study led by researchers from Lund University in Sweden. They show that semi-arid ecosystems—savannahs and shrublands—play an extremely important role in controlling carbon sinks and the climate-mitigating ecosystem service they represent.
„Forest ecosystems including tropical and other major forest biomes take up most of the CO2 “, says Sönke Zaehle, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry. Tropical rainforests are highly productive, taking up a lot of carbon dioxide, but rainforests are crowded places with little room to fit in more plants to do more photosynthesis and to store carbon. In addition, the typical moist, hot weather conditions are ideal for growth and do not change much from year to year.
In savannahs it is different. As productivity increases there is room to fit in more plants whose growing biomass provides a sink, or store, for carbon sequestered from the atmosphere. In addition, savannahs spring to life in wetter years, thus causing large interannual fluctuations in carbon dioxide uptake between wet and dry years. Large enough, the scientists show, to dominate the variability of the carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere.
“Despite contributing only 20% to the vegetation’s carbon sink, savannahs are the largest controlling factor for year-to-year variations of the terrestrial carbon budget” says Markus Reichstein.
We have long known that we need to protect the rainforests but, with this study, the researchers show that a heightened effort is needed to manage and protect the semi-arid regions of the world as well. They will become even more important in the future as climate variability and extremes increase in a warmer world.
“This study brings out clearly the importance of directing attention towards savannahs and other dry-climate ecosystems that have been largely neglected so far in climate policy discussions, and that moreover characterize the landscapes of some of the poorer countries of the Earth", says Benjamin Smith, Professor of Ecosystem Science at Lund University, Sweden. (aa/ef/sz/mr)
The dominant role of semi-arid ecosystems in the trend and variability of the land CO2 sink
Anders Ahlström, Michael R. Raupach, Guy Schurgers, Benjamin Smith, Almut Arneth, Martin Jung, Markus Reichstein, Josep G. Canadell, Pierre Friedlingstein, Atul K. Jain, Etsushi Kato, Benjamin Poulter, Stephen Sitch, Benjamin D. Stocker, Nicolas Viovy, Ying Ping Wang, Andy Wiltshire, Sönke Zaehle, Ning Zeng.
Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1668
https://www.bgc-jena.mpg.de/bgi/index.php/Main/HomePage Department webpage
Dr. Eberhard Fritz | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine