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Thawing Of Arctic Permafrost Could Discharge Massive Amounts Of Nitrous Oxide In The Atmosphere

First Posted: Jun 01, 2017 04:27 AM EDT
Arctic Thawing Could Release Nitrous Oxide
Arctic permafrost thawing may cause nitrous oxide emissions in the atmosphere, according to a new study.
(Photo : Newsy/YouTube screenshot)

Scientists discovered that the melting of the Arctic permafrost could emit massive amounts of nitrous oxide also known as the "laughing gas" in the atmosphere. It is theorized that the discharge could contribute and speed up the warming of the planet Earth.

The findings of the discovery were printed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by researchers from Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The scientists estimated that nitrous oxide emissions might have covered nearly one-fourth of the whole Arctic, according to ABC.

Carolina Voigt, the Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland and the lead author of the study, explained that usually nitrous oxide emissions from Arctic soils were theorized to be negligible due to the low nitrogen content or the production rate is rather low due to the cold climate.

In the study, the scientists examined 16 peatlands in Finnish Lapland. Each peatland was a plot of land over permafrost that is about 80 by 10 centimeters. Some of them were covered by lichen, plants and others were bare. The team took core samples and gauged that amount of nitrous oxide using the sensors.

They found that the plots that were covered in plants or water did not have many gas emissions. On the other hand, the bare plots ejected much of the gas similar in the rainforest. This is about five times as much as normal, according to Phys.org.

The team also discovered that the surface with no vegetation heightens the nitrous oxide emissions from the melting peat. On the other hand, the wetter the peat, the less nitrous oxide is emitted.

Ms. Voigt said that the plants take up nitrogen from the surface soil so they lessen the nitrogen pool that is available for N2O production in the soil profile. Thus, plants are efficient at lessening N2O emissions. Therefore, she said that the future N2O emissions in the Arctic probably will depend largely on how vegetation and moisture conditions will develop in the future.

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