We’re all used to the idea that rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air are causing our climate to change. And we’re used to the idea that it’s our burning of oil, gas and coal that’s driving the process. But this new study shows that extra CO2 is getting into the atmosphere by a completely different route - and it’s all our own fault.
For thousands of years, peat bog plants have taken up carbon dioxide from the air and turned it into peat (part-decomposed plants) that can reach several meters in depth. This is clearly a “good process” because it helps to remove the CO2 we release by burning fossil fuels.
“But now there are signs that nitrogenous gases in air pollution can make peat bogs give off more carbon dioxide than they lock-up”
The amount of carbon contained in peat is not far off the total amount of carbon dioxide in the entire atmosphere by some estimates. The carbon is held in place by what Prof Freeman described in Nature recently as an “Enzymic latch”. In this, special chemicals called “phenolics” are produced by peat-bog plants that can stop plants decomposing after they’ve died. “They’re a bit like preservatives in food” explained Prof Freeman “only in this case they’re preserving huge stores of carbon in the form of peat, rather than food”.
The study in PNAS tells how a network of scientists led by Chris Freeman and his colleague Luca Bragazza from Italy, have studied samples taken from bogs all around Europe with varying levels of nitrogen in their rainfall. The results showed very clearly that bog plants growing in areas with higher levels of nitrogen form less phenolics. This is worrying because the less phenolics the plants produce, the weaker the enzymic latch becomes. This can ‘jump-start’ decomposition back into life and cause a ‘Jekyll and Hyde transition’ in the character of our bogs: Instead of being “good guys” - helping us by taking up our fossil fuel CO2 emissions, they become “bad guys” and start giving off even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than they take up.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that these results suggest that even if we managed to stop all further fossil fuel CO2 emissions (by switching to biofuels for example), atmospheric CO2 levels would continue to rise due to CO2 release from peat bogs.
Clearly putting an end to global warming is going to be more difficult than we thought. We need to address other aspects of air pollution too.
Elinor Elis-Williams | alfa
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy