59 news posts related to Environmental Chemistry

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Thicker-leaved tropical plants may flourish under climate change, which could be good news for climate

A rainforest on Panama's Barro Colorado Island

How plants will fare as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise is a tricky problem and, researchers say, especially vexing in the tropics. Some aspects of plants’ survival may get easier, some parts will get harder, and there will be species winners and losers. The resulting shifts in vegetation will help determine the future direction of climate change. To explore the question, a study led by the University of Washington looked at how tropical forests, which absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide, might adjust as CO2 continues to climb. 

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Is potassium a key to understanding the ocean’s past?

Yan working in the lab.

When looking at a periodic table, potassium might not be the first element you’re drawn to – distracted instead by gold, copper or silver. But a new paper published in Science Advances suggests we should be paying more attention to this abundant substance. The study – with first author Yan Hu, a recent graduate student and postdoctoral researcher in the UW Department of Earth and Space Sciences and now at Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris – advances our ability to trace potassium isotopes at high precision, unleashing a suite of potential applications ranging from measuring past climates to further understanding ocean chemistry. 

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Marine organisms use previously undiscovered receptors to detect, respond to light

Students with an oceanography instrument

Just as plants and animals on land are keenly attuned to the hours of sunlight in the day, life in the oceans follows the rhythms of the day, the seasons and even the moon. A University of Washington study finds the biological light switches that make this possible. Single-celled organisms in the open ocean use a diverse array of genetic tools to detect light, even in tiny amounts, and respond, according to a study published the week of Feb. 

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Microbes help unlock phosphorus for plant growth

Poplar trees along the Snoqualmie River

Phosphorus is a necessary nutrient for plants to grow. But when it’s applied to plants as part of a chemical fertilizer, phosphorus can react strongly with minerals in the soil, forming complexes with iron, aluminum and calcium. This locks up the phosphorus, preventing plants from being able to access this crucial nutrient. To overcome this, farmers often apply an excess of chemical fertilizers to agricultural crops, leading to phosphorus buildup in soils. 

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Volcanic activity and changes in Earth’s mantle were key to rise of atmospheric oxygen

Fossils in South Africa

Oxygen first accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere about 2.4 billion years ago, during the Great Oxidation Event. A long-standing puzzle has been that geologic clues suggest early bacteria were photosynthesizing and pumping out oxygen hundreds of millions of years before then. Where was it all going? Something was holding back oxygen’s rise. A new interpretation of rocks billions of years old finds volcanic gases are the likely culprits. 

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