Hydrology affects carbon storage potential of prairie potholes

May 07, 2013

Prairie potholes, the small, dynamic, unconnected ponds that dot central Canada as well as parts of the north-central United States, can store significant amounts of soil nutrients that can be transformed to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Scientists would like to better understand how these regions could contribute to climate warming, but there are challenges, given the large heterogeneity in greenhouse gas emissions over the prairie pothole landscape.

To help gain a better understanding of the factors that influence these emissions, Creed et al. measured fluxes of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from the soils in the prairie pothole region of central Canada, along with hydrologic properties such as soil moisture. They find that soil moisture was an important driver of the differences in . Soil moisture controls occurred at multiple scales, from ridge to valley along individual potholes at the finest scale, and from the southern limit to the northern limit of potholes in Canada at the coarsest scale.

By integrating these soil moisture controls across fine-to-coarse scales, the authors were able to show the potential contribution of prairie potholes to warming changes across the region. Greenhouse gas emission was smallest in the drier south, where the largest emissions came from the lowland area at the land-water interface, while in the north, large emissions came from a broader area of the hill slope.

The authors conclude that if hydrologic factors are not taken into account, studies could significantly underestimate or overestimate the potential effects of prairie pothole regions on warming.

Explore further: Biochar reduces nasty nitrous oxide emissions on farms

More information: Hydrologic profiling for greenhouse gas effluxes from natural grasslands in the prairie pothole region of Canada, Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, doi:10.1002/jgrg.20050, 2013 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrg.20050/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How grazing lands influence greenhouse gas

May 18, 2010

Grazinglands represent one of the largest land resources in the world, yet their role as net sinks or sources of greenhouse gases is essentially unknown. Previous research has emphasized the role of grazing ...

Biochar reduces nasty nitrous oxide emissions on farms

Apr 29, 2013

(Phys.org) —In the quest to decrease the world's greenhouse gases, Cornell scientists have discovered that biochar – a charcoal-like substance – reduces the nemesis nitrous oxide from agricultural soil ...

Global worming: Earthworms add to climate change

Feb 05, 2013

(Phys.org)—Earthworms are long revered for their beneficial role in soil fertility, but with the good comes the bad: they also increase greenhouse gas emissions from soils, according to a study published Feb. 3 in Nature Cl ...

Disappearing ducks?

Feb 01, 2010

The loss of wetlands in the prairie pothole region of central North America due to a warmer and drier climate will negatively affect millions of waterfowl that depend on the region for food, shelter and raising young, according ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...