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Elevated carbon dioxide changes soil microbe mix below plants
Date:12/19/2007

regulate the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in terrestrial ecosystems.

The study was conducted on soil samples collected at an experimental trembling aspen forest in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. That forest is outfitted with a series rings made of large pipes that can pump a controlled amount of carbon dioxide (or other gases) into the air to artificially mimic expected environmental changes in an otherwise open-air environment. This and other similar "free-air carbon dioxide enrichment" (FACE) facilities around the world were developed by the Department of Energy to help estimate how plants and ecosystems will respond to increasing CO2. Before FACE, much of what scientists knew about plant and ecosystem responses to rising CO2 came from studies conducted in enclosures, where the response of plants is modified by their growth conditions.

In this study, the scientists compared the microbial content of soil taken from three FACE rings receiving ambient levels of CO2 (about 383 parts per million, as of January 2007) with that from soil taken from three FACE rings that have been receiving elevated CO2 (560 parts per million) - a level expected to be ambient on Earth in the year 2100 if the current rate of CO2 increase remains constant at 1.9 parts per million per year.

The scientists first isolated the genetic material from each soil sample. They then used molecular genetics techniques to isolate regions of genetic material known to be highly species-specific, sequenced these regions, and compared them with genetic sequence libraries of known bacteria, eukaryotic microbes (those with nuclei, such as fungi and protozoa), and archaea, a group of microbes that are genetically distinct from bacteria and often dwell in extreme environments.

Main findings

There were no differences in total abundance of bacteria or eukaryotic microbes between ambient and high CO2 so
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Contact: Karen McNulty Walsh
kmcnulty@bnl.gov
631-344-8350
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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