Too little nitrogen may restrain plants' carbon storage capability, research shows

Oct 02, 2012

Plants' ability to absorb increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air may have been overestimated, a new University of Minnesota study shows.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature , shows that even though plants absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and actually can benefit from higher levels of it, they may not get enough of the nutrients they need from typical soils to absorb as much CO2 as scientists had previously estimated. absorption is an important factor in mitigating fossil-fuel emissions.

The study, one of only three such long-term experiments in the world, is based on 13 years of research at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve north of the Twin Cities. U of M scientists Peter Reich and Sarah Hobbie monitored nearly 300 open-air plots planted with perennial grasses with varying levels of and .

"Rather than building a time machine and comparing how ecosystems behave in 2070 – which is hard to do – we basically create the atmosphere of 2070 above our plots," Reich says.

The results suggest that limited levels of fertility typical in most soils likely eliminate a large fraction of the capacity of to scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere, Reich says. "It would be better if there were experiments like ours in , temperate forest, and tundra, to see how well responses there match with what we have found. But as such experiments do not exist, our results play an important role in addressing this issue for ecosystems everywhere."

Reich is a Regents professor in the forest resources department of the university's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Hobbie is a professor in the ecology, evolution and behavior department in the College of Biological Sciences. Both are fellows of the university's Institute on the Environment.

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User comments : 6

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VendicarD
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 02, 2012
Man already fixes more atmospheric nitrogen than the rest of the Biosphere combined.
ScooterG
1.5 / 5 (8) Oct 02, 2012
"The results suggest that limited levels of fertility typical in most soils likely eliminate a large fraction of the capacity of plants to scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere, Reich says."

I think that would be referred to as "balance". Plants will absorb as much CO2 as they need in order to maintain optimum health and balance.

Another expensive study that tells us what we already knew.
ValeriaT
3 / 5 (4) Oct 02, 2012
Man already fixes more atmospheric nitrogen than the rest of the Biosphere combined.
Even when the nitrification bacteria in soil and marine water are included? Do you have some source of this information? This source says about 30% of the total fixed nitrogen is manufactured in ammonia chemical plants.
JoeBlue
1 / 5 (4) Oct 03, 2012
"2070 above our plots," Reich says."

I stopped at that. In other words they made up some bullshit and tried to pass it off as science.
Tomator
not rated yet Oct 03, 2012
Plants will absorb as much CO2 as they need in order to maintain optimum health and balance.

Another expensive study that tells us what we already knew.


This study shows that plants will absorb as much CO2 as they need but due to limited nitrogen in soil they will need and absorb less CO2 than we expected. This may mean that CO2 emissions will be harder to balance with absorbtion than we thought. Regardless how much emissions caused by humans are significant in an ecosystem, such studies helps us to predict what we can expect in the near future. This is the thing that we still don't know.
Tomator
5 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2012
"2070 above our plots," Reich says."

I stopped at that. In other words they made up some bullshit and tried to pass it off as science.


If you ever heard of extrapolation, you wouldn't call it 'bullshit'. Their predictions can be inaccurate of course but trying is still better than watching soap operas in TV. Even if the atmosphere in 2070 will differ from scientists' precictions now we can estimate easier what ca we expect when our knowledge of 2070 conditions will improve.