U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Previous Experimental Studies of Effects of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration on Ecosystems Called into Question
Published: February 21, 2005
Posted: March 29, 2005

A study just published in Nature, supported by the Canadian Government, the U. S. Department of Energy, and the U. S. National Science Foundation, raises important questions about past scientific research on the ecological effects of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. The result adds a significant wrinkle to, and may even call into question, decades worth of past research on effects of elevated CO2 concentration on plants and ecosystems. In the past, scientists typically exposed plants and ecosystems to present ambient (350 to 370 ppm) and elevated (550 to 750 ppm) CO2 levels, with the elevated level imposed instantaneously (a step-change increase). On the contrary, the CO2 increase in the Earths actual atmosphere is occurring gradually (roughly 1-2 ppm per year), and it is possible that ecosystems will respond differently to a gradual CO2 increase than they do to a step-change increase. This possibility has finally been experimentally tested by John Klironomos (University of Guelph), Mike Allen (University of California, Riverside), Matthias Rillig (University of Montana), and their colleagues. These scientists discovered that a more gradual increase in CO2 concentration, carried out over 21 generations of a model plant-soil system, resulted in different effects than an instantaneous increase in CO2 concentration maintained over the same 21 generations. In particular, the step-change increase resulted in significant perturbations to microorganisms living in the soil, while the gradual increase did not.

Contact: Jeff Amthor, SC-74, (301) 903-2507
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-74 Environmental Sciences Division, OBER)

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)