Whether rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will cause forests to grow faster and store more carbon is an open question and one that scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), together with partners at the University of Basel, have been investigating for several years.
In a mature forest just outside Basel, researchers developed a new system to distribute CO2 to the treetops. The use of stable isotopes for studying the carbon balance under elevated CO2 is a speciality of PSI. With these tools the PSI researchers determined the amount of carbon(C) that was assimilated by the tree crowns and the proportions of how much C was invested in leaves, wood, roots and soil, or lost by respiration.
The data, published in the latest issue of Science, (Vol. 309/Nr. 5739) evidences that the optimistic prediction of the CO2 storage capacity of forests probably needs to be qualified. Although the trees in the study took up more carbon in a CO2 rich atmosphere, there was no sustainable increase in biomass carbon. The data suggests that they instead “pump” more carbon through their body.
Juanita Schlaepfer-Miller | alfa
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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.
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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.
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Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
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