Lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria produce large amounts of nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
Inconspicuous creatures surprise with a property that is important for our climate: Lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria release large quantities of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as laughing gas, and low quantities of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere.
Latest investigations showed that cryptogamic covers, the scientific name for the surface growth of lichens, mosses, cyanobacteria and other micro organisms, are responsible for four to nine percent of N2O from natural sources.
This was discovered by the scientists of the Gießen and Heidelberg universities and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in extensive laboratory tests. As the amount of emitted nitrous oxide increased at higher temperatures, the group’s discover is gaining importance with regard to global warming.
“We wanted to find out two things: Firstly, we wanted to know whether cryptogamic covers can emit N2O and CH4 at all. And secondly, what impact do climatic conditions have on the emission values,” says Katharina Lenhart, Visiting Professor at the Institute for Plant Ecology at the Justus-Liebig University in Gießen when explaining the objectives of the study.
To do this, the scientists examined 68 samples of different lichens and mosses from various climate regions. They recorded the greenhouse gas emissions of the organisms under different temperatures, water contents, light conditions and nitrogen fertilizer emissions, to determine the impact of environmental conditions on the release of greenhouse gases.
“The methane emissions of cryptogamic covers were negligible on a global scale. However, the high release rates of nitrous oxide were remarkable,” says Bettina Weber, Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.
“Generally, we could demonstrate that N2O and CH4 emissions strongly increase from temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius,” she adds. Consequently, the scientists suspect that methane and nitrous oxide emissions from lichens, cyanobacteria and mosses could increase in the course of global warming.
This could be of greater significance especially in temperate latitudes, where cryptogamic covers represent one of the main sources for nitrous oxide emissions. In some tundra, steppe and desert regions, they are probably even the exclusive source.
In the next step the scientists will check the laboratory findings in field studies and include additional organisms in their research.
The researchers developed the idea of the current study at the Max Planck Institute, as some years ago, they had found out that cryptogamic covers absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the atmosphere. Lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria bind about as much carbon dioxide as the burning of biomass or fossil fuel releases annually. Additionally, Frank Keppler’s team at the Institute for Geo Sciences at the University of Heidelberg had discovered that plants and fungi can produce methane. Previously, it was assumed that biogenic methane was exclusively produced during the decomposition of organic material under exclusion of oxygen.
Katharina Lenhart, Bettina Weber, Wolfgang Elbert, Jörg Steinkamp, Tim Clough, Paul Crutzen, Ulrich Pöschl and Frank Keppler
Nitrous oxide and methane emissions from cryptogamic covers
Global Change Biology (2015), doi: 10.1111/gcb.12995
PD Dr. Bettina Weber
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
Department of Multiphase Chemistry
55128 Mainz, Germany
Dr. Katharina Lenhart
Visiting Professor for Geo Ecology and Modeling
Justus-Liebig University Gießen
Interdisciplinary Research Center (IFZ)
Institute of Plant Ecology
35392 Gießen, Germany
Prof. Dr. Frank Keppler
Research Group Biogeochemistry
Institute of Geo Sciences
University of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 234-236
69120 Heidelberg, Germany
Dr. Susanne Benner | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy