New lab in France to study biodiversity and climate change

Does biodiversity stimulate the flows of gases and enhance the efficiency of our ecosystems? This is one of the big questions that a new research platform near Montpellier seeks to address in the coming years.

The Ecotron platform is the first of its type in France and claims to be one of the most advanced in the world. It’s mission is to combine the study of ecosystems with biochemical (gas) exchanges so that scientists can simulate a wide range of climate change scenarios in conditions which mimic the complexity of living ecosystems.

The first set of soil samples – collected from high-altitude regions in the Massif Central – will be stocked under the plastic domes atop the building, each dome having been calibrated to receive exactly the same amount of light. Researchers from INRA (France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research), who are leading the experiment, want to expose the samples to possible climate conditions for 2050 and study their reactions to a variety of stressors. The scientists know that drought will cause the stomata – tiny orifices in the epidermis of plants which enable gas exchanges – to tighten to protect the plant from too much evaporation. But what happens if the drought is prolonged? What unleashes genetic adaptations for the plant’s long-term survival?

“We have a unique opportunity to trace the trajectory of carbon in the ecosystem and to understand how plants reallocate their resources in the face of climatic stress,” head of Ecotron, Jacques Roy, told Les Echos.

If carbon dioxide increases, plants reduce their photosynthesis, and require less enzymes, which contain nitrogen. Where will this excess be stored? Will it be used for root growth, which would help carbon sequestration, or for leaves, which would accelerate the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Ecotron is open to all European scientists who wish to submit proposals for experiments.

via Les Echos

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