Biotechnology

The ERC Advanced Grant is awarded to study laughing gas and its relationship with

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Ülo Mander, Professor of Physical Geography and Landscape Ecology at the University of Tartu, received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council to study the nitrous oxide (N2O) cycle, commonly known as laughing gas, in swamps and peatlands, its relation to global climate change, and possible practices land use that can help curb future production of this greenhouse gas.

Laughing gas is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases produced by microbial life in agricultural land and drained peatlands. Reaching the stratosphere, it destroys the ozone layer which protects Earth from UV radiation. It is estimated to contribute 6% of the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate. However, this share is increasing due to changes in land use and the effects of increased use of fertilizers in agriculture. Therefore, it is an important factor in the cycle of elements in nature, having a long-term impact on the planet and humanity, but much is still unknown about its formation, cycle and impact processes.

Ülo Mander and his research team at the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences have, for many years, studied the formation and binding of laughing gas in swamps and drained peatlands in Estonia and the world. Their work has generated valuable background knowledge to rely on when moving forward with this topic. A recently funded five-year research project will observe the laughing gas cycle in three tropical wetland areas which, based on monitoring data, are hotspots for N2O emissions: the northern part of Borneo Island in Malaysia, the Amazon lowlands in Peru, and the lowlands of the world. the largest tropical wetland in the Congo Basin, where the nitrogen cycle has not been studied in detail by scientists.

“There was massive drainage of wetlands in Kalimantan decades ago to make way for oil palm plantations. When palm trees grow on peat soils, which are in turn fertilized with nitrogen fertilizers, the world’s highest emissions of laughing gas are currently measured there. In a study area in Peru, we have previously investigated processes in natural palm swamps and self-forested areas of former agricultural land. This is an area where rapid forest growth is helping offset N2O emissions and gives hope that recovery can take place,” Mander explained the site selection for the project. Because peatlands cover 3–4% of the land surface but store one third of all carbon and almost one fifth of all nitrogen on Earth, they are critical ecosystems on a global scale.

As well as measuring N2O emissions from peat soils, the researchers were also interested in the role of peatland tree trunks and forest canopy in the gas cycle. Gauges in Borneo and Peru will be placed above the tree canopy to study them. “We wanted to investigate what happens to the leaves of tropical trees which are rich in a variety of algae, lichens, lichens and microbes and can capture some of the gases from the air and emit certain greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” said Mander.

Incorporating the data obtained into existing N2O cycle models will also enable researchers to assess the impact of climate change on the nitrogen cycle, predict emission peaks, propose improvements to the data underlying the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, and adapt fields. -use strategies and future scenarios based on them. According to Mander, these strategies so far have been primarily based on the climate impacts of human-caused land use, but climate change is also having a significant impact on natural ecosystem cycles. The N2O emission data to be collected in this Mander-led project will be a valuable contribution to filling this gap.

The Continuation Grant received from the European Research Council totaled almost €3.5 million. This grant is intended for outstanding top scientists who have achieved outstanding research results over the past ten years. Grant proposals were prepared with the help of a team of grant writers from the Grants Office of the University of Tartu.

Professor Ülo Mander.  Photo by Andres Tennus 2

Credit: Photo author: Andres Tennus (University of Tartu)

Ülo Mander, Professor of Physical Geography and Landscape Ecology at the University of Tartu, received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council to study the nitrous oxide (N2O) cycle, commonly known as laughing gas, in swamps and peatlands, its relation to global climate change, and possible practices land use that can help curb future production of this greenhouse gas.

Laughing gas is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases produced by microbial life in agricultural land and drained peatlands. Reaching the stratosphere, it destroys the ozone layer which protects Earth from UV radiation. It is estimated to contribute 6% of the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate. However, this share is increasing due to changes in land use and the effects of increased use of fertilizers in agriculture. Therefore, it is an important factor in the cycle of elements in nature, having a long-term impact on the planet and humanity, but much is still unknown about its formation, cycle and impact processes.

Ülo Mander and his research team at the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences have, for many years, studied the formation and binding of laughing gas in swamps and drained peatlands in Estonia and the world. Their work has generated valuable background knowledge to rely on when moving forward with this topic. A recently funded five-year research project will observe the laughing gas cycle in three tropical wetland areas which, based on monitoring data, are hotspots for N2O emissions: the northern part of Borneo Island in Malaysia, the Amazon lowlands in Peru, and the lowlands of the world. the largest tropical wetland in the Congo Basin, where the nitrogen cycle has not been studied in detail by scientists.

“There was massive drainage of wetlands in Kalimantan decades ago to make way for oil palm plantations. When palm trees grow on peat soils, which are in turn fertilized with nitrogen fertilizers, the world’s highest emissions of laughing gas are currently measured there. In a study area in Peru, we have previously investigated processes in natural palm swamps and self-forested areas of former agricultural land. This is an area where rapid forest growth is helping to offset N2O emissions and gives hope that recovery can take place,” Mander explained the site selection for the project. Because peatlands cover 3–4% of the land surface but store one third of all carbon and almost one fifth of all nitrogen on Earth, they are critical ecosystems on a global scale.

As well as measuring N2O emissions from peat soils, the researchers were also interested in the role of peatland tree trunks and forest canopy in the gas cycle. Gauges in Borneo and Peru will be placed above the tree canopy to study them. “We wanted to investigate what happens to the leaves of tropical trees which are rich in a variety of algae, lichens, lichens and microbes and can capture some of the gases from the air and emit certain greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” said Mander.

Incorporating the data obtained into existing N2O cycle models will also enable researchers to assess the impact of climate change on the nitrogen cycle, predict emission peaks, propose improvements to the data underlying the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, and adapt fields. -use strategies and future scenarios based on them. According to Mander, these strategies so far have been primarily based on the climate impacts of human-caused land use, but climate change is also having a significant impact on natural ecosystem cycles. The N2O emission data to be collected in this Mander-led project will be a valuable contribution to filling this gap.

The Continuation Grant received from the European Research Council totaled almost €3.5 million. This grant is intended for outstanding top scientists who have achieved outstanding research results over the past ten years. Grant proposals were prepared with the help of a team of grant writers from the Grants Office of the University of Tartu.


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