Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Global warming's ecosystem double whammy

18.09.2008
DRI study shows 1 abnormally warm year suppresses carbon dioxide uptake for 2 years

Plants and soils act like sponges for atmospheric carbon dioxide, but new research finds that one abnormally warm year can suppress the amount of carbon dioxide taken up by some grassland ecosystems for up to two years. The findings, which followed an unprecedented four-year study of sealed, 12-ton containerized grassland plots at DRI is the cover story in this week's issue (September 18) of the journal Nature.

"This is the first study to quantitatively track the response in carbon dioxide uptake and loss in entire ecosystems during anomalously warm years," said lead author Jay Arnone, research professor in the Division of Earth and Ecosystem sciences at DRI. "The 'lagged' responses that carry over for more than one year are a dramatic reminder of the fragility of ecosystems that are key players in global carbon sequestration."

The plants and soils in ecosystems help modulate the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. Plants need CO2 to survive, and they absorb most CO2 during spring and summer growing seasons, storing the carbon in their leaves, stems and roots. This stored carbon returns to the soil when plants die, and it is released back into the atmosphere when soil bacteria feed on the dead plants and release CO2.

The four-year DRI study involved native Oklahoma tall grass prairie ecosystems that were sealed inside four, living-room-sized environment chambers. The dozen 12-ton, six-foot-deep plots were extracted intact from the University of Oklahoma's prairie research facility near Norman, Okla., in order to minimize the disturbance of plants and soil bacteria. Inside the DRI's sunlit-controlled EcoCELL chambers, scientists replicated the daily and seasonal changes in temperature, and rainfall that occur in the wild.

In the second year of the study, half of the plots were subjected to temperatures typical of a normal year, and the other half were subjected to abnormally warm temperatures -- on the order of those predicted to occur later this century by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the third year of the study, temperatures around the warmed plots were turned down again to match temperatures in the control plots. The CO2 flux -- the amount of carbon dioxide moving between the atmosphere and biosphere -- was tracked in each chamber for all four years of the study.

DRI's EcoCELL facility gave the scientists an unprecedented degree of control over the enclosed ecosystems. Not only could they create the same air temperature conditions from year-to-year, they could also independently control the soil temperature in each chamber -- a key feature that enhanced the ecological relevance of the results. Each containerized ecosystem also sat on "load cells," the type of scales used to weigh trucks on highways. Scientists used the scales to track the amount of water that was taken up and lost by the plants and soil in both normal and abnormal years. Thus, each containerized ecosystem served as a weighing lysimeter, an instrument that's used to measure the water and nutrients that percolate through soils.

The scientists found that ecosystems exposed to an anomalously warm year had a net reduction in CO2 uptake for at least two years. These ecosystems trapped and held about one-third the amount of carbon in those years than did the plots exposed to normal temperatures.

"Large reductions in net CO2 uptake in the warm year were caused mainly by decreased plant productivity resulting from drought, while the lack of complete recovery the following year was caused by a lagged stimulation of CO2 release by soil microorganisms in response to soil moisture conditions," explained co-author Paul Verburg, also from DRI.

Numerous studies have found that the Earth's atmospheric CO2 levels have risen by about one-third since the dawn of the Industrial Age. CO2 helps trap heat in the atmosphere, and political and economic leaders the world over are debating policy and economic reforms to reduce the billions of tons of CO2 that burned fossil fuels are adding to the atmosphere each year.

"Our findings confirm that ecosystems respond to climate change in a much more complex way than one might expect based solely on traditional experiments and observations," said study co-author James Coleman, vice provost for research and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Rice University. "Our results provide new information for those who are formulating science-based carbon policies."

Greg Bortolin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.dri.edu
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Five-point plan to integrate recreational fishers into fisheries and nature conservation policy
20.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Rain is important for how carbon dioxide affects grasslands
06.03.2019 | University of Gothenburg

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: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Important Progress in the Fight against Testicular Cancer

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Measurement of thoughts during knowledge acquisition

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Eliminating hepatitis C viruses effectively

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>