Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Team finds better way to gauge the climate costs of land use change

09.01.2012
Those making land use decisions to reduce the harmful effects of climate change have focused almost exclusively on greenhouse gases – analyzing, for example, how much carbon dioxide is released when a forest is cleared to grow crops.
A new study in Nature Climate Change aims to present a more complete picture – to incorporate other characteristics of ecosystems that also influence climate.

“We know that forests store a lot of carbon and clearing a forest releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, who pioneered the new approach with plant biology and Energy Biosciences Institute professor Evan DeLucia. “But ecosystems provide other climate regulation services as well.”

The climate effects of a particular ecosystem also depend on its physical attributes, she said. One such attribute is its reflectivity, a quality climate scientists call albedo.

“If you think of an open snow-covered field or bare sandy soil, that ground acts somewhat like a mirror, reflecting solar radiation back to space,” Anderson-Teixeira said. “In contrast, a forest is dark and absorbs a lot of solar radiation. In that sense, any type of vegetation is going to warm the land surface to some extent.”

Another factor that should be considered is an ecosystem’s ability to release heat through the evaporation of water. The more water available in an ecosystem, the more it cools itself by evapotranspiration or, as DeLucia puts it, “planetary sweating.”

“It takes a great deal of energy to convert liquid water to vapor, and this transition cools the soil and the surface of leaves as water evaporates, in the same way that sweating cools your skin,” said DeLucia, who also is an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois.

Scientists have known about biophysical effects for a long time, Anderson-Teixeira said. “But the challenge has been to incorporate them into a single metric that will help us design land-use policies that are going to help mitigate – and not exacerbate – climate change.”

To tackle this problem, Anderson-Teixeira and DeLucia teamed with University of Minnesota professors Peter Snyder and Tracy Twine; professor Santiago Cuadra, of the Federal Center of Technological Education in Rio de Janeiro; and professor Marcos Costa, of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Brazil.

The researchers compiled data to calculate the “greenhouse gas value” of 18 “ecoregions” across North and South America, and also modeled the ecoregions’ biophysical characteristics. They looked at several types of forest, as well as grassland, tundra, tropical savanna and agricultural crops, such as soy, sugarcane, corn, miscanthus and switchgrass.

“The challenge of combining the greenhouse gases with the biophysical effects is that they operate over very different spatial and temporal scales,” Anderson-Teixeira said. To integrate the two, the researchers first divided the local biophysical effects by the global land surface area. They then combined the measures and converted the values into carbon dioxide equivalents, a common currency in the world of climate mitigation.

The researchers found that biophysical attributes make a tropical rainforest even more valuable for protection against climate warming, but lessen the climate value of boreal (evergreen) forests in Canada.

Any forest provides a climate service by storing carbon, the researchers said, but forests also absorb more solar radiation than bare ground. Tropical forests cool the land by evapotranspiration, but northern boreal forests have much lower evapotranspiration and are dark in comparison to open spaces. These factors give Amazon forests “the highest climate regulation value of all the ecoregions we studied,” Anderson-Teixeira said.

Crops also have an enhanced climate-regulating value when their biophysical attributes are considered, DeLucia said.

“When considering only their effect on greenhouse gases, annually tilled row crops like corn tend to have a warming effect by contributing large quantities of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere,” he said. “But when you factor in the ability to reflect solar energy and high rates of evapotranspiration, the net effect (compared with bare ground) is cooling.”

Ecosystems perform a lot of other services of importance to humans and the planet, DeLucia said.

“While the climate-regulating value that we propose in this paper captures how ecosystems affect climate, it is important to note that this is only one of many services ecosystems provide,” he said. “Ultimately the value of any given ecosystem to society must include these other services, including biodiversity, water purification and the production of food and fiber, to name just a few.”

The researchers note that theirs is not the only valid way to quantify the climate services various ecosystems offer. But it captures more of the picture than previous methods have.

“We hope that this approach will help to design land-use policies that protect the climate,” Anderson-Teixeira said.

Editor’s notes: To reach Evan DeLucia, call 217- 333-6177; email delucia@illinois.edu.
To reach Kristina Anderson-Teixeira,
email kateixei@illinois.edu.
The paper, “Climate Regulation Services of Natural and Agricultural Ecoregions of the Americas,” is available from the U. of I. News Bureau.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

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: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

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...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

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...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>