Scientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough have published research findings in the prestigious journal, Nature Geoscience, that show global warming actually changes the molecular structure of organic matter in soil.
“Soil contains more than twice the amount of carbon than does the atmosphere, yet, until now, scientists haven’t examined this significant carbon pool closely,” says Myrna J. Simpson, principal investigator and Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry at UTSC. “Through our research, we’ve sought to determine what soils are made up of at the molecular level and whether this composition will change in a warmer world.”
Soil organic matter is what makes dirt fertile and able to support plant life – both of which are especially important for agriculture. Organic matter retains water in the soil and prevents erosion. Natural processes of decomposition of soil organic matter provide plants and microbes with the energy source and water they need to grow, and carbon is released into the atmosphere as a by-product of this process. Warming temperatures are expected to speed up this process which will increase the amount of CO2 that is transferred to the atmosphere.
“From the perspective of agriculture, we can’t afford to lose carbon from the soil because it will change soil fertility and enhance erosion” says Simpson. “Alternatively, consider all the carbon locked up in permafrost in the Arctic. We also need to understand what will happen to the stored carbon when microbes become more active under warmer temperatures.”
Until Simpson’s research, scientists didn’t know much about soil’s molecular composition. Part of the reason is that, from a chemical perspective, soil is difficult to analyze due to its many components, including bacteria, fungi and an array of fresh, partially degraded, or old plant material. Simpson’s team, which includes research collaborators Professors Dudley Williams and Andre Simpson, is uniquely positioned to address this new frontier. The team uses a NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) facility - the only NMR facility in Canada specifically dedicated to environmental research – to gain a detailed view of soil’s molecular structure and reactivity.
In their current study, Simpson’s team used an outdoor field experiment in the valley behind the UTSC campus to ensure natural ecosystem processes were preserved. Electrodes warmed the test soil between three and six degrees through winter and summer seasons, over a 14-month period. Throughout the test period, the team analyzed the molecular composition of soil samples.
Laura Matthews | Newswise Science News
Global study of world's beaches shows threat to protected areas
19.07.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
NSF-supported researchers to present new results on hurricanes and other extreme events
19.07.2018 | National Science Foundation
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences