Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants Emit Greenhouse Gas Nitrous Oxide at Substantial Amounts

18.10.2018

Current study shows: Impact on natural climate processes greater than previously thought

Nitrous oxide, or N2O, is a greenhouse gas that affects the ozone layer and the earth‘s climate. Until now, experts believed that microbes in the soil were largely responsible for its formation. Now an interdisciplinary research team from the University of Applied Sciences Bingen and Heidelberg University have looked more closely at plants as the source. The result of the study: The earth‘s flora emits considerable amounts of nitrous oxide that contributes to the greenhouse gas effect. Unlike human-induced global warming, however, this process is part of a natural effect.


Sterile tobacco plants in the climate chamber

Photo: Steffen Greiner (Heidelberg University, COS)

Until now, climate reports like those from the UN‘s IPCC did not include plants as a significant source of nitrous oxide in the global climate budget. Yet to accurately calculate the human contribution to the greenhouse gas effect, it is essential to identify and quantify all sources of greenhouse gases – including the natural ones. The current study shows that all the plants studied emit nitrous oxide and contribute significantly to total N2O emissions.

The researchers report that based on these studies, emissions from plants could make up roughly five to ten percent of nitrous oxide in the earth‘s atmosphere. “To truly understand the role of plants in the nitrous oxide cycle and to quantify it more precisely, further studies on representative types of plants, especially trees, are needed,” stresses Prof. Dr Katharina Lenhart.

“This study was just a first step toward quantifying plant emissions of nitrous oxide and understanding the related biochemical processes,” states the researcher, a professor of botany, limnology and ecotoxicology at the University of Applied Sciences Bingen and guest scientist at Heidelberg University.

To determine the amount of N2O emissions, the researchers studied 34 different plants under controlled conditions in a closed laboratory. Among the plants were tobacco, corn, and lavender. To avoid contamination with bacteria-generated nitrous oxide, some of the experiments were conducted under sterile conditions.

All the experiments took place in the dark so that the nitrous oxide emitted could be related to plant respiration. Like humans, plants release carbon dioxide (CO2) when they breathe. The opposite and generally better known process of CO2 absorption, however, occurs only in the presence of light during photosynthesis.

“The N2O and CO2 ratio is correlated, so we were able to use the ample existing research on plant carbon dioxide emissions to calculate the amount of nitrous oxide released,” explains Prof. Lenhart.

Isotope analyses were also carried out, because all nitrous-oxide-producing processes release a nitrous oxide molecule with a typical isotope fingerprint, including plants. “By measuring the composition of the isotopes, we were able to clearly demonstrate that most of the nitrous oxide is not released by bacteria in the soil, and that it differs from all the previously known sources,” adds Prof. Dr Frank Keppler, who directs the Biogeochemistry Research Group at Heidelberg University’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

In the next phase, the researchers will verify their laboratory results in field studies and include other plant species in their investigations. They also want to explore which biochemical process contributes to the formation of nitrous oxide in plants and the role of the biosphere in nitrous oxide formation in geological history. One particularly interesting question is how increasing global temperatures affect the rate at which plants release nitrous oxide.

Dr Steffen Greiner from the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) of Heidelberg University also contributed to the interdisciplinary research led by Prof. Lenhart and Prof. Keppler. Other cooperation partners include researchers from the Institute for Plant Ecology at the University of Gießen, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, the Senckenberg Natural Research Society, and the Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture in Braunschweig. The research results were published in the journal “New Phytologist”.

Contact:
Heidelberg University
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr Katharina Lenhart
University of Applied Sciences Bingen
Phone +49 6721 409-359
k.lenhart@th-bingen.de

Prof. Dr Frank Keppler
Heidelberg University
Institute of Earth Sciences
Phone +49 6221 54-6009
frank.keppler@geow.uni-heidelberg.de

Originalpublikation:

K. Lenhart, T. Behrendt, S. Greiner, J. Steinkamp, R. Well, A. Giesemann & F. Keppler: Nitrous oxide effluxes from plants as a potentially important source to the atmosphere. New Phytologist (2018), https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15455

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.th-bingen.de/person/katharina-lenhart/#
http://www.geow.uni-heidelberg.de/researchgroups/keppler

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: CO2 EMISSIONS N2O Oxide carbon dioxide greenhouse nitrous oxide

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding
10.07.2020 | The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

nachricht Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes
10.07.2020 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Looking at linkers helps to join the dots

10.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>