Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Accelerated Global Warming From Nutrient Shortages For Trees And Soils

Date:
November 28, 2003
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Many researchers believe that increasing amounts of CO2, belched into the atmosphere by human fossil fuel use, will be captured through nature's ability to lock up the carbon in soil organic matter and faster growing trees. But it's not so simple. A new report, published in the November 28 Science, shows that the availability of nitrogen, in forms usable by plants, will probably be too low for large increases in carbon storage.

Stanford, California - "We should not count on carbon storage by land ecosystems to make a massive contribution to slowing climate change," said Dr. Christopher Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution. "And lower storage of carbon in these ecosystems results in a faster increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading to more rapid global warming."

Future atmospheric levels of the notorious heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, remain a controversial topic among environmental scientists. Many researchers believe that increasing amounts of CO2, belched into the atmosphere by human fossil fuel use, will be captured through nature's ability to lock up the carbon in soil organic matter and faster growing trees. But it's not so simple. A new report, published in the November 28 Science, shows that the availability of nitrogen, in forms usable by plants, will probably be too low for large increases in carbon storage.

Ecosystems on land can store carbon, through bigger trees and more organic matter in soils, but shortages of mineral nutrients, especially nitrogen, curb potential future carbon storage. Several approaches to calculating ecosystem carbon storage, including some featured in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assume that nitrogen available to plants is abundant, even though current nitrogen limitation is widespread. "Realistic scenarios for future changes in nitrogen availability limit ecosystem carbon storage to the low end of the range presented in the recent IPCC report," says Field.

"In a garden limited by water, a gardener would not expect a big increase in growth from adding potassium. Similarly, plants in natural ecosystems limited by nitrogen may not grow much faster when they are exposed to increased levels of carbon dioxide," explained co-author Jeffrey Dukes. "Plants will need more nitrogen if they're going to lock up more carbon. The models used by the IPCC just didn't acknowledge that to a sufficient extent." Human activities tend to add biologically available nitrogen to ecosystems, but the additions are patchy in space and the added nitrogen can be rapidly lost. According to Field, "Even with generous assumptions about future increases in biologically available nitrogen, we still couldn't find enough nitrogen to support the range of carbon storage discussed in the IPCC report."

These new findings highlight the challenge of limiting global warming. Dukes concludes, "Our study suggests that we've been counting too much on the natural ecosystems to bail us out of our carbon emissions problem. The natural systems can help, but there are limits to their response. We have to make sure these limits are incorporated into our models."

###

Authors on this study were Bruce Hungate, Merriam-Powell Center for Environment Research, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff; Jeffrey Dukes, M. Rebecca Shaw and Christopher Field, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution, Stanford, CA, and Yiqi Luo, Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman. This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington (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.: Plant Biology and Global Ecology in Stanford, CA.; The Observatories in Pasadena, CA, and Chile; Embryology, in Baltimore, MD.; and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, DC.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Accelerated Global Warming From Nutrient Shortages For Trees And Soils." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031128082113.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2003, November 28). Accelerated Global Warming From Nutrient Shortages For Trees And Soils. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031128082113.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Accelerated Global Warming From Nutrient Shortages For Trees And Soils." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031128082113.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

New Pictures of Ship That Sank in 1888

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) Federal researchers have released new images of the City of Chester, a steamship that sank in San Francisco Bay in 1888. Researchers recently found the shipwreck while mapping shipping routes. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 23, 2014) A group of space explorers say the chance of a city-obliterating asteroid striking Earth is higher than scientists previously believed. Deborah Gembara reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins