Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants; limits on available nitrogen constrain how much plants can grow. This in turn affects the amount of carbon dioxide plants can absorb, which affects the global climate.
Using a framework that considers interactions of carbon and nutrients, Wang and Houlton have developed a new global estimate of nitrogen fixation rates.
The authors considered the amount of nitrogen plants require to store additional carbon and found that a substantial deficit of nitrogen exists for plants in most areas of the world. They argue that most climate models that do not take into account nitrogen have overestimated carbon uptake and therefore underestimated predicted global warming.
The authors suggest that it is important that the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change consider interactions between the nitrogen and carbon cycles.
The research appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Authors include Ying-Ping Wang, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and CAWCR; Benjamin Z. Houlton, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis.
- Wang et al. Nitrogen constraints on terrestrial carbon uptake: Implications for the global carbon-climate feedback. Geophysical Research Letters, 2009; 36 (24): L24403 DOI: 10.1029/2009GL041009
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