Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Beetles modify emissions of greenhouse gases from cow pats

Date:
August 22, 2013
Source:
University of Helsinki
Summary:
Cattle contribute to global warming by burping and farting large amounts of greenhouse gases. Some of the same gases are also emitted from cow pats on pastures. But now researchers have found that beetles living in cow pats may reduce emissions of the key greenhouse gas -- methane.

By digging around in their food, dung beetles like Aphodius pedellus may aerate cow pats -- and thereby modify methane emissions.
Credit: Drawing of beetle by Kari Heliövaara

Cattle contribute to global warming by burping and farting large amounts of greenhouse gases. Some of the same gases are also emitted from cow pats on pastures. But now researchers from the University of Helsinki have found that beetles living in cow pats may reduce emissions of the key greenhouse gas -- methane.

Agriculture is one of the biggest sources of the anthropogenic greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Among these, cattle farming for meat and milk are major sources of methane, a gas with a potent warming effect. Much of this methane comes from the guts of ruminating cattle, but some escapes from dung pats on pastures. Now researchers from the University of Helsinki have found that beetles living in the cow pats may reduce emissions of methane. The study has just been published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Atte Penttilä, who undertook the study for his Masters, explains: "Cow pats offer a prime food for a large number of organisms. In fact, there are probably as many beetle species living in dung as there are bird species on this planet."

Of the dung beetles living in Northern Europe, most spend their entire lives within the dung pats. "We believe that these beetles exert much of their impact by simply digging around in the dung. Methane is primarily born under anaerobic conditions, and the tunneling by beetles seems to aerate the pats. This will have a major impact on how carbon escapes from cow pats into the atmosphere."

"You see, the important thing here is not just how much carbon is released" explains Tomas Roslin, head of the research team. "The question is rather in what form it is released. If carbon is first taken up by plants as carbon dioxide, then emitted in the same format by the cows eating the plants, then the effect of plants passing through cattle will be small in terms of global warming. But if in the process the same carbon is converted from carbon dioxide to methane -- a gas with a much higher impact on climate -- it is then that we need to worry."

"If the beetles can keep those methane emissions down, well then we should obviously thank them -- and make sure to include them in our calculations of overall climatic effects of dairy and beef farming."

"Overall, the effects that we found are intriguing, but the implications also quite worrying," says Eleanor Slade, a researcher commuting between teams working on dung beetles in both Helsinki and Oxford. "When you combine the current increase in meat consumption around the world with the steep declines in many dung beetle species, overall emissions from cattle farming can only increase."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Atte Penttilä, Eleanor M. Slade, Asko Simojoki, Terhi Riutta, Kari Minkkinen, Tomas Roslin. Quantifying Beetle-Mediated Effects on Gas Fluxes from Dung Pats. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (8): e71454 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071454

Cite This Page:

University of Helsinki. "Beetles modify emissions of greenhouse gases from cow pats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822105031.htm>.
University of Helsinki. (2013, August 22). Beetles modify emissions of greenhouse gases from cow pats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822105031.htm
University of Helsinki. "Beetles modify emissions of greenhouse gases from cow pats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822105031.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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