The environment has a more formidable opponent than carbon dioxide. Another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, is 300 times more potent and also destroys the ozone layer each time it is released into the atmosphere through agricultural practices, sewage treatment and fossil fuel combustion.
Luckily, nature has a larger army than previously thought combating this greenhouse gas—according to a study by Frank Loeffler, University of Tennessee, Knoxville–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor's Chair for Microbiology, and his colleagues.
The findings are published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists have long known about naturally occurring microorganisms called denitrifiers, which fight nitrous oxide by transforming it into harmless nitrogen gas. Loeffler and his team have now discovered that this ability also exists in many other groups of microorganisms, all of which consume nitrous oxide and potentially mitigate emissions.
The research team screened available microbial genomes encoding the enzyme systems that catalyze the reduction of the nitrous oxide to harmless nitrogen gas.
They discovered an unexpected broad distribution of this class of enzymes across different groups of microbes with the power to transform nitrous oxide to innocuous nitrogen gas. Within these groups, the enzymes were related yet evolutionarily distinct from those of the known denitrifiers. Microbes with this capability can be found in most, if not all, soils and sediments, indicating that a much larger microbial army contributes to nitrous oxide consumption.
"Before we did this study, there was an inconsistency in nitrous oxide emission predictions based on the known processes contributing to nitrous oxide consumption, suggesting the existence of an unaccounted nitrous oxide sink," said Loeffler. "The new findings potentially reconcile this discrepancy."
According to Loeffler, the discovery of this microbial diversity and its contributions to nitrous oxide consumption will allow the scientific community to advance its understanding of the ecological controls on global nitrous oxide emissions and to refine greenhouse gas cycle models."This will allow us to better describe and predict the consequences of human activities on ozone layer destruction and global warming," said Loeffler. "Our results imply that the analysis of the typical denitrifier populations provides an incomplete picture and is insufficient to account for or accurately predict the true nitrous oxide emissions."
Whitney Heins | EurekAlert!
Don't forget plankton in climate change models, says study
27.11.2015 | University of Exeter
Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests
26.11.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
27.11.2015 | Press release
27.11.2015 | Life Sciences
27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences