Microbes: getting to the root of carbon dioxide production

According to a recent article in the Boulder Daily Camera, alpine tundra research by John Knowles has shown that during the three month growing season, when plants are active, there was some CO2 removed from the atmosphere by plants and they brought it into the tundra. But the whole rest of the year, the other nine months, the tundra lost that CO2 through microbes breathing it back out into the atmosphere, about six times more going out than brought in by plants. So, because global warming is thawing the alpine permafrost, the ecosystem is persistently emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. If you are wondering how microbes breath CO2 back out, see the article below.

In a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications, scientists presented evidence that Colorado’s Front Range tundra emits more CO2 than it absorbs each year, making it a net carbon contributor — potentially worsening the impacts of climate change.

https://www.upi.com/Science_News/2019/03/21/Study-Thawing-alpine-permafrost-a-stealth-source-of-CO2/7061553171063/

“We have evidence that climate change or another disturbance may be liberating decades-to-centuries-old carbon from this landscape,” researcher John Knowles said.

John Knowles

Science Snapshots

You might have heard numbers in climate change news describing the total amount of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, that is released across the entire earth within a year. So how do scientists calculate this annual number? Some parts of this calculation are relatively straightforward, like adding up the amount of carbon dioxide released from burning oil or gas around the world. Others are more complex and some even require diving into the soil to look closely at the lives of tiny organisms like bacteria and fungi.

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