A 25-year-long study published in GEOLOGY on 14 July provides the first quantitative measurement of in situ calcium-magnesium silicate mineral dissolution by ants, termites, tree roots, and bare ground.
This study reveals that ants are one of the most powerful biological agents of mineral decay yet observed. It may be that an understanding of the geobiology of ant-mineral interactions might offer a line of research on how to "geoengineer" accelerated CO2 consumption by Ca-Mg silicates.
Bullant head detail
Researcher Ronald Dorn of Arizona State University writes that over geological timescales, the dissolution of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) bearing silicates has led to the graduate drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) through the accumulation of limestone and dolomite. Many contemporary efforts to sequester CO2 involve burial, with some negative environmental consequences.
Dorn suggests that, given that ant nests as a whole enhance abiotic rates of Ca-Mg dissolution by two orders of magnitude (via biologically enhanced weathering), future research leading to the isolation of ant-based enhancement process could lead to further acceleration.
If ant-based enhancement could reach 100 times or greater, he writes, this process might be able to geo-engineer sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Similarly, ants might also provide clues on geoengineering efficient pathways of calcium carbonate precipitation to sequester atmospheric CO2.
Earth's climate has cooled significantly over the past 65 m.y., likely from hydrologic regulation, vegetation change, and interactions related to tectonism, in part mediated by Ca-Mg silicate mineral dissolution that draws down CO2.
Although speculative, says Dorn, the timing of the expansion in the variety and number of ants in the Paleogene and the Neogene suggests that biologically enhanced weathering by ants could potentially be a part of the puzzle of Cenozoic cooling.
Ants as a powerful biotic agent of olivine and plagioclase dissolution
Ronald I. Dorn, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-5302, USA. Published online 14 July 2014; http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/G35825.1.
16 July 2014
GSA Release No. 14-47
Kea Giles | Eurek Alert!
Family tree for orchids explains their astonishing variability
04.09.2015 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Gone with the wind: A new project focusses on atmospheric input of phosphorus into the Baltic Sea
04.09.2015 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
In a survey of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope images of 2,753 young, blue star clusters in the neighboring Andromeda galaxy (M31), astronomers have found that M31 and our own galaxy have a similar percentage of newborn stars based on mass.
By nailing down what percentage of stars have a particular mass within a cluster, or the Initial Mass Function (IMF), scientists can better interpret the light...
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have developed a highly compact and efficient inverter for use in uninterruptible power...
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from University of Arizona geoscientists. The study is the first to explain how the steep-fronted plateau formed.
China's Loess Plateau was formed by wind alternately depositing dust or removing dust over the last 2.6 million years, according to a new report from...
The leaves of the lotus flower, and other natural surfaces that repel water and dirt, have been the model for many types of engineered liquid-repelling surfaces. As slippery as these surfaces are, however, tiny water droplets still stick to them. Now, Penn State researchers have developed nano/micro-textured, highly slippery surfaces able to outperform these naturally inspired coatings, particularly when the water is a vapor or tiny droplets.
Enhancing the mobility of liquid droplets on rough surfaces could improve condensation heat transfer for power-plant heat exchangers, create more efficient...
Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.
"While we have been trying to manage for resilience of 20th century conditions, we realize now that we must prepare for transformations and attempt to ease...
03.09.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
04.09.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering
04.09.2015 | Machine Engineering
04.09.2015 | Materials Sciences