Plant production could decline as climate change affects soil nutrients

Oct 31, 2013
The cliff face of Cedar Mesa, in southeast Utah, overlooks one of many sites sampled in the world's drylands.

(Phys.org) —As drylands of the world become even drier, water will not be the only resource in short supply. Levels of nutrients in the soil will likely be affected, and their imbalance could affect the lives of one-fifth of the world's population.

That includes people living in Arizona, who may be in for a dustier future.

The findings are presented in a study published in Nature that details how changes may occur and discusses the implications. Co-author Matthew Bowker, assistant professor of and ecosystem ecology at Northern Arizona University, was involved with the project since 2009.

Bowker explained that most of the 17 nutrients that plants need to grow to their potential are soil resources, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The statistical model he helped develop for the study suggests that as the climate becomes more arid, nitrogen will decrease and phosphorus will increase.

"Both are essential for , and both are typical components of fertilizer, but both need to be around in the right quantities for plant growth to proceed most efficiently," Bowker said.

"It's like a situation where you're making hamburgers but run out of beef. You can't just slip in another bun and still produce a hamburger."

Drylands, which are defined by predominantly lower levels of moisture, cover about 41 percent of the earth's surface. The study suggests that people who depend on those ecosystems for crops, livestock forage, fuel and fiber will find their resources increasingly restrained.

In Arizona, Bowker said, the projected decrease in plant production could magnify the impact of dust storms, which have been increasing in recent decades.

"We can probably expect more and more dust in the air," he said.

The project involved visits by research teams in 16 countries to 224 locations on every continent except Antarctica. Bowker led one of the sampling teams, which visited 10 study sites in northern Arizona and Utah. Those sites ranged from dry, grassy shrublands with low precipitation to relatively wet sagebrush ecosystems.

"This is a testament to the power of networked science," Bowker said, adding that it would have been "prohibitively expensive" for any one researcher or research group to complete the project.

Explore further: Warming will disturb balance of soil nutrients in drylands

More information: www.nature.com/nature/journal/v502/n7473/full/nature12670.html

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Shootist
1.2 / 5 (17) Oct 31, 2013
Plant production could increase as carbon is more freely available.
mememine69
1.4 / 5 (19) Oct 31, 2013
Y2Kyoto

AL GORE is my shepherd; I shall not think.

He maketh me lie down in Greenzi pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still-freezing waters.

He selleth my soul for CO2:

He leadeth me in the paths of self-righteousness for his own
sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
reason,

I will fear all logic: for thou art with me and thinking for
me;

Thy Gore's family oil fortune and thy 10,000 square Gorey
foot mansion, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a movie in the presence of contradictory
evidence:

Thou anointest mine head with nonsense; my mindless
conformity runneth over.

Surely blind faith and hysteria shall follow me all the days
of my life:and I will dwell in the house of ALGORE forever.
Egleton
2.5 / 5 (13) Nov 01, 2013
Cute, denialists. I hope the joke never palls.
VendicarE
3.9 / 5 (11) Nov 01, 2013
"AL GORE is my shepherd; I shall not think." - YouYouYouTard

Al Gore is an exceptionally moral and bright man, but when you see someone start to whine about Al Gore after an article on the science of global warming, then you know that their motivations are purely political.

Gore is not a scientist, and played no part in the scientific research reported here.

VendicarE
3.7 / 5 (9) Nov 01, 2013
"Plant production could increase as carbon is more freely available." - Shootist

Some plants will increase their growth rate, but not by much more than they already have.

Research shows that forests rapidly saturate in their ability to absorb carbon.
deatopmg
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 01, 2013
Shootist and Vendi - Over the last 30 yrs or so, Satellite data shows an average of 11% increase on photosynthetic production, with a peak of 39% in some areas, due to the increase CO2 concentration. There are essentially no areas where production has decreased.

Who is denying?
VendicarE
4.4 / 5 (7) Nov 01, 2013
"Over the last 30 yrs or so, Satellite data shows an average of 11% increase on photosynthetic production" - DeaTard

Yup, and that is about it for the expansion.CO2 levels have increased by close to 50%, with only an 11% increase in plant growth. The effect isn't linear so the next 50% will produce much less of an increase. Perhaps 5 percent.

Much of this will be temporary of course. As much of it will come from the expansion of forests northward.

Once mature, those forests will have a net zero effect.
Howhot
3.9 / 5 (7) Nov 02, 2013
Yep, I guess the DeaTard has never heard of too much of a good thing Vendi We blew past that level a long time ago. If you happen to be in one of the new drought areas, consumed in wild fires, or flooded and choked out, yep, that must be a real good thing. Deniers are such Major League A's.

jlynn73
2.7 / 5 (7) Nov 02, 2013
Every time I read another global warming proclamation I remember that the result of this campaign is oil and gas companies being exempted from the clean air and water acts, allowing them to pump hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous waste into our lakes and rivers.

If you can solve global warming without polluting every once of water on the planet, Im all for it.
Porgie
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 03, 2013
The left is desperately trying to maintain the warming paranoia. Without it they cannot continue the crushing regulations and controls. The polar caps are expanding the fear of the Atlantic pump failing is past. Jobs and progress are not killing the planet. Why not support coal research and nuclear? At least it is positive without fear mongering.
Howhot
5 / 5 (2) Nov 04, 2013
The left is desperately trying to maintain the warming paranoia. Without it they cannot continue the crushing regulations and controls. The polar caps are expanding the fear of the Atlantic pump failing is past. Jobs and progress are not killing the planet. Why not support coal research and nuclear? At least it is positive without fear mongering.


It's not that the Left is trying to impose *crushing* regulations, its just that it has to be done or capitalistic people (like you or me or Donald Trump) will destroy whole environments to make money. Even if we foul our own nest to the point of being a suicidal venture, we humans seem to go to that extreme, and that is why we regulate ourselves and the industries we create. If it's *CRUSHING* regulation, its only because it has to be for the health of society.

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