Navigation Links
Princeton-led team finds secret ingredient for the health of tropical rainforests

A team of researchers led by Princeton University scientists has found for the first time that tropical rainforests, a vital part of the Earth's ecosystem, rely on the rare trace element molybdenum to capture the nitrogen fertilizer needed to support their wildly productive growth. Most of the nitrogen that supports the rapid, lush growth of rainforests comes from tiny bacteria that can turn nitrogen in the air into fertilizer in the soil.

Until now, scientists had thought that phosphorus was the key element supporting the prodigious expansion of rainforests, according to Lars Hedin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University who led the research. But an experiment testing the effects of various elements on test plots in lowland rainforests on the Gigante Peninsula in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Panama showed that areas treated with molybdenum withdrew more nitrogen from the atmosphere than other elements.

"We were surprised," said Hedin, who is also a professor in the Princeton Environmental Institute. "It's not what we were expecting."

The report, detailed in the Dec. 7 online edition of Nature Geoscience, will be the journal's cover story in its print edition.

Molybdenum, the team found, is essential for controlling the biological conversion of nitrogen in the atmosphere into natural soil nitrogen fertilizer, which in turn spurs plant growth. "Just like trace amounts of vitamins are essential for human health, this exceedingly rare trace metal is indispensable for the vital function of tropical rainforests in the larger Earth system," Hedin said. Molybdenum is 10,000 times less abundant than phosphorus and other major nutrients in these ecosystems.

The discovery has implications for global climate change policy, the scientists said. Previously, researchers knew little about rainforests' capacity to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If molybdenum is central to the biochemical processes involved in the uptake of carbon dioxide, then there may be limits to how much carbon that tropical rainforests can absorb.

The biological enzyme, nitrogenase, which converts atmospheric nitrogen into soil fertilizer, feeds on molybdenum, the researchers found. "Nitrogenase without molybdenum is like a car engine without spark plugs," said Alexander Barron, the lead author on the paper, who was a graduate student in Hedin's laboratory and earned his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton in 2007 and who now is working on climate legislation in Congress.


Contact: Kitta MacPherson
Princeton University

Related biology news :

1. Rice University study finds possible clues to epilepsy, autism
2. U of Minnesota researcher finds link between aggression, status and sex
3. Men are red, women are green, Brown researcher finds
4. Brown chemist finds gray molds killer gene
5. Dolphin population stunted by fishing activities, Scripps/NOAA study finds
6. Pitt research finds that low concentrations of pesticides can become toxic mixture
7. NC State finds new nanomaterial could be breakthrough for implantable medical devices
8. Grapes may aid a bunch of heart risk factors, animal study finds
9. NJIT professor finds engineering technique to identify disease-causing genes
10. UCSB study finds physical strength, fighting ability revealed in human faces
11. Yale journal finds nanomaterials may have large environmental footprint
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/18/2015)... 2015 --> ... market report titled  Gesture Recognition Market - Global Industry ... 2021. According to the report, the global gesture recognition market was valued ... reach US$29.1 bn by 2021, at a CAGR of ... America dominated the global gesture recognition market ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), ... announced expansion of its TDDI product portfolio with ... and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions designed to ... TDDI products add to the previously-announced TD4300 ... resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. All four ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... segmented on the basis of product, type, ... segments included in this report are consumables, ... this report are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, ... in this report are diagnostics development, drug ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global Stem Cells Group ... professionals from Central America and abroad for the first Iberoamerican Convention on Aesthetic ... 17-19, 2016. Testart will present and discuss new trends in anti-aging stem cell ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... radiology technique shows promise for helping morbidly obese patients lose ... presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society ... --> --> Gastric artery embolization ... way to stop bleeding in emergency situations, but the idea ... is new. Mubin Syed , M.D., interventional radiologist ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... 30, 2015 Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology, ... company developing bioengineered organ implants for life-threatening conditions, ... The NASDAQ Stock Market that it has regained ... letter noted that as a result of the ... exceeded $1.00 per share for more than ten ...
(Date:11/30/2015)...  Champions Oncology, Inc. (CSBR), engaged in the development ... development and use of oncology drugs, today announced that ... presenting at the LD MICRO Investor Conference on Wednesday, ... The conference, held at the Luxe Sunset Bel Air ... will feature 200 small/micro-cap companies and is expected to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: