Hidden giants in forest soils

Only a fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified through efforts to understand their contributions to global nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles. In Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the DOE Joint Genome Institute and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Characterizing the diversity of microbial cells in a handful of soil is so complex it was considered impossible. To date, only a small fraction of the microbes residing in, on and around soils have been identified as part of efforts to understand their contributions to the global carbon cycle, and to other nutrient cycles. Soils are also home to countless viruses that can infect microbes, impacting their ability to regulate these global cycles.

Reported November 19, 2018, in Nature Communications, giant virus genomes have been discovered for the first time in a forest soil ecosystem by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass Amherst). As the name implies, giant viruses are characterized by disproportionately large genomes and virions that house the viruses’ genetic material. They have been frequently found within protists and algae, and thus they are believed to have a significant impact on their hosts’ population dynamics and the planet’s biogeochemical cycles.

Source: Hidden giants in forest soils – EurekAlert, 2018-11-19

Long-lived wood products are significant carbon capturers

By Pranjal Mehar
A key finding of the study is that positive climate change mitigation effects can be gained only if efforts are made to use more wood for long-lived wood products.

A new study by the University of Eastern Finland has suggested that the way we use wood mitigate climate change. It also supports the economy.

Forests assume a vital job in the worldwide carbon cycle and add to climate change mitigation. Forests ingest carbon from the environment through photosynthesis and store the carbon in living biomass, dead wood, litter and soil.

When wood is collected, a lot of carbon is expelled from the Forest and would then be able to be put away for a considerable length of time in enduring wood items, for example, wooden houses and furniture. Up until this point, numerous examinations have concentrated on carbon put away in Forest, yet fewer investigations have concentrated on the job of wood items.

A new study intends to fill this gap in knowledge. The study analyzed and applied various methods and models in order to estimate the effects of wood use effects on climate change mitigation and to reveal the environmental, economic and even social effects of wood use.

The examination followed the streams of wood in Lithuania and the Czech Republic beginning from the forest through the wood handling industry until the point when the end products, with an accentuation on carbon conventional and atmosphere moderation impacts.

The outcomes demonstrate that traditional carbon bookkeeping strategies for reap wood items may prompt a huge underestimation of the carbon put away in wood items. The examination discovered that in a few nations, the yearly carbon spending plan in wood items is 40% higher when ascertained with a more definite technique.

Source: Long-lived wood products are significant carbon capturers – Tech Explorist, 2018-11-08

Hygroscopic aerosols linked to forest decline

Hygroscopic aerosols — particles in the air that attract water — could be causing forest decline around the world, according to experiments performed in Germany. Researchers believe that aerosol accumulation on trees enables thin bridges of liquid to form between the leaf interior and the leaf surface, causing the plants to dry out much more rapidly.

“In the atmosphere, aerosols act as cloud condensation nuclei,” says Juergen Burkhardt of the University of Bonn, Germany. “Deposited aerosols on leaf surfaces act almost the same way but attract water from inside the plant.”

Plants have developed sophisticated mechanisms for taking up carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis without losing too much water but, as the scientists note, it’s a delicate balance. And one that appears to be upset by rising levels of airborne particles.

“Global aerosol concentrations have roughly doubled compared with natural conditions, and the concentration increase over the continents is even higher,” says Burkhardt. “Our results show that aerosols deposited on leaves interfere with this delicate balance, pointing to a direct mechanism by which air pollution can reduce the drought tolerance of plants.”

Burkhardt and colleagues grew three species of tree — Scots pine, silver fir and common oak — for two years in two greenhouses, one ventilated with ambient air and the other fed with air filtered to remove 99% of aerosols. Seedlings grown under filtered conditions had superior drought tolerance to those raised in ambient air, the team found.

Source: Hygroscopic aerosols linked to forest decline – Brinkwire, 2018-09-25

Diverse forests are stronger against drought

Diversity is strength, even among forests. In a paper published in Nature, researchers led by University of Utah biologist William Anderegg report that forests with trees that employ a high diversity of traits related to water use suffer less of an impact from drought. The results, which expand on previous work that looked at individual tree species’ resilience based on hydraulic traits, lead to new research directions on forest resilience and inform forest managers working to rebuild forests after logging or wildfire.

Surprisingly, says Anderegg, a forest’s hydraulic diversity is the predominant predictor of how well it can handle a drought.

“We expected that hydraulic traits should matter,” he says, “but we were surprised that other traits that a lot of the scientific community have focused on weren’t very explanatory or predictive at all.”

Source: Diverse forests are stronger against drought – University of Utah, 2018-09-19

Planting a mix of tree species ‘could double’ forest carbon storage

By Daisy Dunne
Forests containing several tree species could store twice as much carbon as the average monoculture plantation, research finds.

A study looking at the carbon storage of forests in southern China finds that each additional tree species introduced to a plantation could add 6% to its total carbon stocks.

The findings suggest that afforestation programmes – which aim to plant trees to “suck” CO2 out of the atmosphere – should switch from using just one plant species to a more diverse mix, a study author tells Carbon Brief.

Planting a diverse range of trees could also bring many co-benefits, the author adds, including providing habitats for a larger range of animals.

However, the relatively small scale of the experiment may have led researchers to overestimate the relationship between tree species diversity and carbon storage, other scientists tell Carbon Brief.

Source: Planting a mix of tree species ‘could double’ forest carbon storage – Carbon Brief, 2018-08-22

City forests store rainforest-levels of carbon, study finds

By Morgan Erickson-Davis
Nations are hurrying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming, and one way they’re going about this is by encouraging the protection of forests. Trees trap carbon in their biomass and in the soil, and it’s hoped that keeping them in the ground will keep their carbon out of the atmosphere.

Climate-focused forest conservation policies and programs tend to be focused on rainforests. Covering vast areas, rainforests have earned the moniker “lungs of the planet” for their ability to sequester carbon dioxide while producing oxygen.

But pound for pound, other types of forest give rainforests a run for their money. A hectare of mangrove, for instance, can store four times more carbon than can a hectare of rainforest. And now, new research shows that even temperate forests in cities may be able to sequester nearly as much carbon as a similarly sized area of rainforest.

The study was conducted by a team of scientists from University College London, who mapped the carbon stores of areas of tree cover in the London Borough of Camden. Their results were published recently in the journal Carbon Balance and Management.

The team used remotely sensed LiDAR (which stands for “Light Detection and Ranging”) data that provided high-resolution information about tree structure. Armed with specific numbers on the dimensions and extent of Camden’s aboveground biomass (i.e., the parts of trees that aren’t underground), the researchers were able to estimate how much carbon is contained in each pocket of urban forest.

“Urban trees are a vital resource for our cities that people walk past every day,” said lead author Phil Wilkes. “We were able to map the size and shape of every tree in Camden, from forests in large parks to individual trees in back gardens. This not only allows us to measure how much carbon is stored in these trees but also assess other important services they provide such as habitat for birds and insects.”

Their results indicate Camden’s trees contain more carbon than estimated by previous studies. And while, as a whole, the borough’s median carbon density is on the low side when compared to many natural ecosystems – roughly equivalent to subtropical steppe – its urban forests are carbon storage powerhouses. The maximum value they uncovered was in a large, 320-hectare park called Hampstead Heath. There, carbon density approaches that of tropical rainforest.

Source: City forests store rainforest-levels of carbon, study finds – Mongabay, 2018-06-29

Scientists Boost Biodiversity By Guiding Middle-Aged Forests To Mimic Ancient Ones

By Kathleen Masterson
A new University of Vermont study finds that harvesting trees in a way that mimics old growth forests not only restores critical habitat for animals and plants, but also stores a surprising amount of carbon…

The “old growth” engineering technique succeeded in creating diverse habitats. But the kicker, Keeton says, is that it has also allowed the forest to store a significant amount of carbon, much more than several other conventional tree selection harvesting techniques. That’s key to fighting climate change.

Now, forests that are left alone — with no trees harvested — store the most carbon. But Keeton’s study is finding that it is possible to manage the forest to maximize carbon capture, and still keep it a working forest.

“This greater amount of carbon storage as compared to the conventional treatments was actually a combination of having left more trees behind in the first place, and growth rates that were actually 10 percent higher in this treatment as compared to the conventional harvest,” Keeton says. “And that was really surprising.”

Keeton says after 10 years, the old growth forest management plot stored nearly as much carbon as the unlogged control forest. It came within 16 percent of carbon storage in the unharvested plots.

Source: Vt. Scientists Boost Biodiversity By Guiding Middle-Aged Forests To Mimic Ancient Ones | WBUR News, 2017-04-26

Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass

In the Microbial Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the incredibly efficient eating habits of a fungus-cultivating termite are surprising even to those well acquainted with the insect’s natural gift for turning wood to dust.

According to a study published today (April 17, 2017) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, when poplar wood undergoes a short, 3.5-hour transit through the gut of the termite, the emerging feces is almost devoid of lignin, the hard and abundant polymer that gives plant cells walls their sturdiness. As lignin is notorious for being difficult to degrade, and remains a costly obstacle for wood processing industries such as biofuels and paper, the termite is the keeper of a highly sought after secret: a natural system for fully breaking down biomass.

“The speed and efficiency with which the termite is breaking down the lignin polymer is totally unexpected,” says John Ralph, a UW-Madison professor of biochemistry, researcher at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and lignin expert. “The tantalizing implication is that this gut system holds keys to breaking down lignin using processes that are completely unknown.”

Source: Termite gut holds a secret to breaking down plant biomass – EurekAlert! Science News, 2017-04-17

New research unlocks forests’ potential in climate change mitigation

By Scott Miller
New insights into the impact forests have on surface temperature will provide a valuable tool in efforts to mitigate climate change, according to a new research paper co-authored by Clemson University scientist Thomas O’Halloran.

For the first time, scientists have created a global map measuring the cooling effect forests have by regulating the exchange of water and energy between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. In many locations, this cooling effect works in concert with forests’ absorption of carbon dioxide. By coupling information from satellites with local data from sensors mounted to research towers extending high above tree canopies, O’Halloran and his collaborators throughout the world have given a much more complete, diagnostic view of the roles forests play in regulating climate.

Their findings have important implications for how and where different types of land cover can be used to mitigate climate change with forest protection programs and data-driven land-use policies. Results of their study were recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Source: New research unlocks forests’ potential in climate change mitigation – Clemson University News and Stories, 2017-04-19