Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA maps how nutrients affect plant productivity

Date:
November 1, 2012
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
A new analysis has estimated how much the growth of plants worldwide is limited by the amount of nutrients available in their soil. The maps produced from the research will be particularly useful in evaluating how much carbon dioxide Earth's ecosystems may be able to soak up as greenhouse gas levels increase.

Global map depicting the percentage that vegetation growth is limited by available soil nutrients, with 0 representing no nutrient limitation, and 100 being completely nutrient limited.
Credit: NASA JPL/Caltech

A new analysis led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has estimated how much the growth of plants worldwide is limited by the amount of nutrients available in their soil. The maps produced from the research will be particularly useful in evaluating how much carbon dioxide Earth's ecosystems may be able to soak up as greenhouse gas levels increase.

A research team led by JPL research scientist Josh Fisher used 19 years of data from NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international satellites to assess the maximum possible growth of vegetation all over the world based upon available water and light conditions. The scientists then cross-compared that potential maximum with observed vegetation productivity as measured by satellites. This is the first time such an analysis has been conducted.

The map, published recently in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, shows the places where vegetation productivity was less than the potential maximum, and then infers that the vegetation in those places was limited by the amount of available soil nutrients there. Results of the study were evaluated using measurements of nutrients and vegetation productivity taken at ground validation sites in Hawaii.

"There are many regions on Earth where vegetation struggles to reach optimum productivity because of sparse nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphorus," said Fisher. "This reduces global vegetation productivity by nearly a quarter compared to vegetation in a completely fertile Earth."

Fisher said the research is valuable for studying the global carbon cycle. "Current global carbon cycle models do not, for the most part, account for the cycling of nutrients, so the terrestrial biosphere (forests and other ecosystems) is expected to absorb an increasing amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide," he said. "Our approach provides a way to assess the performance of global carbon models that incorporate the cycling of nutrients to ensure that they accurately reflect the impacts that sparse nutrients have on plant growth."

The team found that tropical forests were more nutrient-limited than boreal forests, though the range in the amount of nutrients was much larger for boreal forests than tropical forests. North American forests were more nutrient-limited than Eurasian forests. Savannas, grasslands and shrublands had the fewest nutrients, and croplands had the most.

"We were able to detect known regional gradients in nutrient levels -- an East-West gradient across Amazonia, fertilization differences between 'developed' and 'developing' countries, and the migration of trees in boreal North America, for example," said co-author Grayson Badgley of Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

"It is interesting that we can glean insight on global nutrient cycles from satellite observations of global water and carbon cycles," said co-author Eleanor Blyth of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford.

NASA satellite data used in the study included data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft; NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer; and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for Earth Observing System, and Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instruments on NASA's Aqua spacecraft.

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joshua B. Fisher, Grayson Badgley, Eleanor Blyth. Global nutrient limitation in terrestrial vegetation. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2012; 26 (3) DOI: 10.1029/2011GB004252

Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA maps how nutrients affect plant productivity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101175102.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2012, November 1). NASA maps how nutrients affect plant productivity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101175102.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA maps how nutrients affect plant productivity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121101175102.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
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