Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Corn Plants Used To Monitor Carbon Dioxide Levels From Fossil Fuels

Date:
January 22, 2007
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Scientists at UC Irvine have mapped fossil fuel air pollution in the United States by analyzing corn collected from nearly 70 locations nationwide.

Researcher Diana Hsueh in corn field.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Irvine

Scientists at UC Irvine have mapped fossil fuel air pollution in the United States by analyzing corn collected from nearly 70 locations nationwide.

This novel way to measure carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas will help atmospheric scientists better understand where pollution is located and how it mixes and moves in the air. Tracking fossil-fuel-emitted carbon dioxide will be important as countries throughout the world adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement among nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The United States signed the protocol, but the treaty has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

“Many nations are facing increasing pressure to monitor and regulate the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel sources to limit greenhouse gas warming,” said James Randerson, associate professor of Earth system science at UCI and co-author of the study. “This method can help determine how much fossil fuel carbon dioxide is coming from different regions.”

The study appears Jan. 23 in Geophysical Research Letters.

Atmospheric scientists typically measure carbon dioxide by collecting air samples, but this is the first time fossil-fuel-emitted carbon dioxide has been mapped using plants. This new method may complement existing air sampling techniques because plants provide a cost-effective way to record average daytime conditions over several months. Plants take in carbon dioxide gas, from both background and fossil fuel sources, during photosynthesis, and it becomes part of the plant tissue.

In summer 2004, UCI scientists collected corn from farms and gardens in 31 states, including Hawaii and Alaska. They chose corn because it is widely grown and, as an annual plant, all of its carbon is derived from a single growing season. The scientists avoided pollution point sources such as highways and power plants to allow for mapping of regional patterns across different states. Back in the laboratory, the scientists dried samples of corn leaves and husks, then converted them to graphite using a series of chemical reactions. The graphite then was analyzed in the W.M. Keck Carbon Cycle Accelerator Mass Spectrometer, which measures a rare isotope of carbon, called radiocarbon. Carbon dioxide derived from fossil fuels contains no radiocarbon so it is easily distinguishable from other sources. With measurements from this machine, scientists calculated overall levels of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels at the location where the corn samples were collected.

California and the Ohio Valley had the most fossil-fuel-emitted carbon dioxide, while the Colorado region had the least. The scientists expected pollution from California and other western coastal states to drift east, but they found that the Rocky Mountains appeared to provide a barrier for the movement of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

Air in the Mountain West, including Colorado, Idaho and New Mexico, was the cleanest, with about 370 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Air in the Eastern United States, which includes Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York, contained an additional 2.7 parts per million of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel sources. Air in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia had nearly twice as much additional carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, 4.3 parts per million.

“We have to better understand emission patterns and changes in the atmosphere in order to better regulate fossil fuels,” said Susan Trumbore, also a professor of Earth system science and co-author of the study. “This is a direct way to measure the release of carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate warming.”

Diana Hsueh was the lead author and conducted the research as a UCI undergraduate. UCI researchers John Southon and Xiaomei Xu also contributed to this study, along with Nir Krakauer from the California Institute of Technology. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Corn Plants Used To Monitor Carbon Dioxide Levels From Fossil Fuels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070122143110.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2007, January 22). Corn Plants Used To Monitor Carbon Dioxide Levels From Fossil Fuels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070122143110.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Corn Plants Used To Monitor Carbon Dioxide Levels From Fossil Fuels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070122143110.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dutch Highway Introduces Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

Dutch Highway Introduces Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

Newsy (Apr. 14, 2014) A Dutch highway has become the first lit by glow-in-the-dark paint — a project aimed at reducing street light use. Video provided by Newsy
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