Because grasslands and forests operate in complex feedback loops with both the atmosphere and soil, understanding how ecosystems respond to global changes in climate and element cycling is critical to predicting the range of global environmental changes--and attendant ecosystem responses--likely to occur. In a new study in the premier open access journal PLoS Biology Jeffrey Dukes, Christopher Field, and colleagues treated grassland plots to every possible combination of current or increased levels of four environmental factors--CO2, temperature, precipitation, and nitrogen influx--to simulate likely regional changes over the next 100 years. The results of their long-term experiment reveal that California grasslands, and ecosystems that respond similarly, are not likely to help buffer the rate of climate change by acting as a carbon "sink"--slowing the rise of CO2 levels by storing more carbon in new growth.
The experiments were part of the Jasper Ridge Global Change Experiment (JRGCE), which started on Stanfords 1,200-acre biological preserve in 1997. Since 1998, this grassland ecosystem has been outfitted with an ecologists version of a microclimate controller (complete with CO2 pumps, heaters, and irrigation tubing) and subjected to experimentally controlled atmospheric, climatic, and nutrient conditions. (This study examines the experiments first five years.) To quantify the grassland response to these treatments, the authors estimated net primary production, or NPP (the amount of carbon left over after cellular respiration) by measuring shoot and root growth in 36 circular plots scattered across roughly two acres. The strongest effects on grassland production came from elevated levels of nitrogen (which typically reaches a fertilization limit). Elevated temperature, rainfall, and, surprisingly, CO2, had minimal impacts. These results suggest that increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are not likely to increase growth of the roots and leaves of plants in this grassland. Why not? One possibility involves phosphorus. High levels of CO2 and nitrogen can reduce phosphorus concentrations or limit its uptake in these plants. Ongoing JRGCE experiments are exploring how this and other factors--such as grazing or shifts in seasonal events--might limit the growth effects of CO2.
Its thought that ocean and terrestrial ecosystems have stored nearly half the carbon emissions produced by humans since the industrial revolution. If it turns out that other natural systems also fail to sequester as much carbon as scientists once thought, atmospheric CO2 concentrations will rise even faster than expected--with serious implications for future climate change.
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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....
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