Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Combining global environmental changes yields surprising ecosystem response

06.12.2002


Scientists have discovered that elevated atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) can suppress plant growth when increases of this important greenhouse gas are combined with a broad suite of already-occurring environmental changes. According to Christopher Field, project leader and director of the new Department of Global Ecology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, "We are now getting a much richer picture of ecosystem responses to global environmental changes, and the traditional view that elevated CO2 always stimulates plant growth simply isn’t correct." The research is published in the December 6, 2002, issue of Science.

Many past studies of global-change impacts on plants and ecosystems have focused on responses to increases in atmospheric CO2. But realistically, global changes are much more than just elevated CO2. They include global warming, altered rainfall, and increases in biologically available nitrogen compounds produced during fossil-fuel combustion. These other global changes can have major impacts on plants and ecosystems. A new study by scientists at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Nature Conservancy, and Stanford University shows, for the first time, how these other global changes alter the response of a natural ecosystem to increased atmospheric CO2. According to lead author Rebecca Shaw, "In the third year of the experiment, plant growth increased in the plots treated with CO2 alone, as in many other experiments. It also increased in plots exposed to the other global changes--warming, increased precipitation, and fertilizing with nitrogen --alone or in combination. But, when we added carbon dioxide, the effect of the other treatments was suppressed. The elevated CO2 in this situation pushed the response back toward the initial conditions."

Over the last hundred years, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 30%. The planet has warmed by about 1 ºF. Rainfall has increased in some regions and decreased in others. And human actions have more than doubled inputs of biologically available nitrogen. Elevated atmospheric CO2 increases plant growth in many experiments, but most past experiments studied impacts of CO2 alone or in combination with one other factor. The results of the Carnegie-led experiment reveal new dimensions of ecosystem responses to global change. In the California grassland studied by this team, elevated CO2 suppresses plant growth in many treatments, especially treatments where growth at normal CO2 is fastest. Field noted, "When we look at impacts of realistic global changes on whole ecosystems, we see a broad range of responses. We do not yet know whether responses will be similar in other ecosystems, but our wide range of treatments helps open the door to understanding global-change impacts on ecosystems not yet studied."



This research was conducted over a three-year period at Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. The small stature and short life span of the plants in this California grassland ecosystem make it a model system --one that is relatively simple to study, but with results that can be used to help interpret global-change responses of all the world’s land ecosystems.

Carnegie’s new Department of Global Ecology --launched July 1, 2002, on the campus of Stanford University -- grew from a century of ecological research at Carnegie’s Department of Plant Biology, also at Stanford. Using the latest technology--from satellite imagery to the tools of molecular biology--Carnegie scientists have been analyzing the complicated interactions of Earth’s land, atmosphere, and oceans. Building from biological details at the level of biochemistry and physiology, they link data and concepts from the microscopic to the global scales. The interdisciplinary Carnegie team views the planet through a biological lens to probe the function, assess the fragility, and explore the integration of the world’s ecosystems. They tackle issues such as the global carbon cycle, the role of land and oceanic ecosystems in regulating climate, the interaction of biological diversity with ecosystem function, and much more. According to Field, "We know too much about the influence of mechanisms that span biology, geology, and atmospheric sciences to stick with traditional disciplinary approaches for global studies. We need to establish a new, interdisciplinary scientific field--global ecology."


The Carnegie Institution of Washington (http://www.CarnegieInstitution.org) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments in the U.S.: Embryology, Geophysical Laboratory, Terrestrial Magnetism, The Observatories, Plant Biology, and Global Ecology.

Rebecca Shaw | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ciw.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Loss of habitat causes double damage to species richness
02.04.2019 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Deep decarbonization of industry is possible with innovations
25.03.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

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: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>