• Plant nitrogen theory overturned with new research which may affect climate models

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Researchers have overturned a long-standing belief about the sources of nitrogen that plant life uses to grow, with important implications for climate science and modelling. Previously, the scientific consensus was that plants suck nitrogen exclusively from the atmosphere, but the new research has found that around a quarter has its origins in Earth’s bedrock, being released as rocks weather or during tectonic movements. With this ‘new’ source of nitrogen, it may be that there is more plant growth than models have previously assumed, meaning that more atmospheric carbon dioxide would be being consumed . Such an effect would not be globally uniform, depending instead on regional geologies, with northern latitudes, as well as the Himalayas and the Andres richer in the types of rock that release more nitrogen. The discovery may not only require the modification of climate models and be some reprieve from the magnitude of the problem of climate change, but also spur a new area of research.