Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Plant community plays key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from carbon rich moorlands

Date:
September 18, 2013
Source:
Lancaster University
Summary:
Different moorland plants, particularly heather and cotton grass, can strongly influence climate warming effects on greenhouse gas emissions, researchers have discovered. The findings, published this week in the journal Ecology Letters, show carbon stores, which lie deep below peaty moorlands, are at risk from changes in climate and from land management techniques that alter plant diversity. But the study found that the make-up of the plant community could also play a key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from these carbon rich ecosystems, as not all vegetation types respond in the same way to warming.

Dr Sue Ward at the warming and plant manipulation experiment at Moor House National Nature Reserve.
Credit: Copyright S E Ward

Different moorland plants, particularly heather and cotton grass, can strongly influence climate warming effects on greenhouse gas emissions, researchers from Lancaster University, The University of Manchester and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have discovered.

The findings, published this week in the journal Ecology Letters, show valuable carbon stores, which lie deep below peaty moorlands, are at risk from changes in climate and from land management techniques that alter plant diversity.

But the study found that the make-up of the plant community could also play a key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from these carbon rich ecosystems, as not all vegetation types respond in the same way to warming.

The research, supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant, took place at Moor House National Nature Reserve, high up in the North Pennines, a long-term, ecological monitoring site for the UK Environmental Change Network.

The newly set up experimental site manipulated both temperature and the composition and diversity of vegetation at the same time, allowing the team to study the combined effects of these global change phenomena for the first time.

Temperatures were increased by around 1C using open-topped, passive warming chambers, specially built on site, which mimicked the predicted effects of global warming.

The researchers found that when heather was present, warming increased the amount of CO2 taken up from the atmosphere, making the ecosystem a greater sink for this greenhouse gas. However, when cotton grass was present, the CO2 sink strength of system decreased with warming, and the amount of methane released increased.

Professor Richard Bardgett, who led the research team, and has recently moved to The University of Manchester, said: "What surprised us was that changes in vegetation, which can result from land management or climate change itself, also had such a strong impact on greenhouse gas emissions and even changed the way that warming affected them.

"In other words, the diversity and make-up of the vegetation, which can be altered by the way the land is farmed, can completely change the sink strength of the ecosystem for carbon dioxide. This means that the way we manage peat land vegetation will strongly influence the way that peat land carbon sink strength responds to future climate change."

Dr Sue Ward, the Senior Research Associate for the project at Lancaster Environment Centre, said: "Setting up this experiment allowed us to test how greenhouse gas emissions are affected by a combination of changes in climate and changes in plant communities.

"By taking gas samples every month of the year, we were able to show that the types of plants growing in these ecosystems can modify the effects of increase in temperature."

Dr Ward said the study would be of interest and relevance to ecological and climate change scientists and policy makers.

"Changes in vegetation as well as physical changes in climate should be taken into account when looking at how global change affects carbon cycling," she added. "Otherwise a vital part is missing -- the biology is a key ingredient."

Professor Nick Ostle, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, a joint partner in the research, said: "This 'real-world' study of the response of peat lands to climate change is unique, making these findings even more important.

"It seems that the identity of the plants present in these landscapes will exert a strong influence on the effect of climate warming on soil CO2 emissions back to the atmosphere. If this is true then we can expect similar responses in other carbon rich systems in the Arctic and Boreal regions."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Susan E. Ward, Nicholas J. Ostle, Simon Oakley, Helen Quirk, Peter A. Henrys, Richard D. Bardgett. Warming effects on greenhouse gas fluxes in peatlands are modulated by vegetation composition. Ecology Letters, 2013; 16 (10): 1285 DOI: 10.1111/ele.12167

Cite This Page:

Lancaster University. "Plant community plays key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from carbon rich moorlands." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918090550.htm>.
Lancaster University. (2013, September 18). Plant community plays key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from carbon rich moorlands. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918090550.htm
Lancaster University. "Plant community plays key role in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from carbon rich moorlands." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918090550.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. 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