Nitrogen discovery ‘could greatly improve climate change projections’

Posted: April 7, 2018 by oldbrew in atmosphere, climate, Geology, research
Tags: ,

Earth’s atmosphere [image credit: BBC]

“These results are going to require rewriting the textbooks,” according to the research program director.

Not all of the nitrogen on the planet comes from the atmosphere, according to a UC Davis study in the journal Science. Up to a quarter comes from Earth’s bedrock. 

The discovery could greatly improve climate change projections, says Eurekalert. 


Ecosystems need nitrogen and other nutrients to absorb carbon dioxide pollution, and there is a limited amount of it available from plants and soils. If a large amount of nitrogen comes from rocks, it helps explain how natural ecosystems like boreal forests are capable of taking up high levels of carbon dioxide.

But not just any rock can leach nitrogen. Rock nitrogen availability is determined by weathering, which can be physical, such as through tectonic movement, or chemical, such as when minerals react with rainwater.

That’s primarily why rock nitrogen weathering varies across regions and landscapes. The study said that large areas of Africa are devoid of nitrogen-rich bedrock while northern latitudes have some of the highest levels of rock nitrogen weathering.

Mountainous regions like the Himalayas and Andes are estimated to be significant sources of rock nitrogen weathering, similar to those regions’ importance to global weathering rates and climate. Grasslands, tundra, deserts and woodlands also experience sizable rates of rock nitrogen weathering.


Mapping nutrient profiles in rocks to their potential for carbon uptake could help drive conservation considerations. Areas with higher levels of rock nitrogen weathering may be able to sequester more carbon.

“Geology might have a huge control over which systems can take up carbon dioxide and which ones don’t,” Houlton said. “When thinking about carbon sequestration, the geology of the planet can help guide our decisions about what we’re conserving.”


The work also elucidates the “case of the missing nitrogen.” For decades, scientists have recognized that more nitrogen accumulates in soils and plants than can be explained by the atmosphere alone, but they could not pinpoint what was missing.

Continued here.

  1. ivan says:

    Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is going to improve climate change projections until such time as they completely understand all the atmospheric changes and what causes them and totally know how to apply chaos theory to what they are dealing with.

    Considering the above requirements I can’t see any ‘climate scientist’ ever being able to predict anything, evah.

  2. tallbloke says:

    “Carbon dioxide pollutiom”.


    Plant food.

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    Atmospheric Nitrogen is not available for plant use. It must be converted to nitrogenous compounds first, such as nitrates, nitrites, Ammonia etc.. NOX becomes nitrates and nitrites in acid rain that attacks stone to create various fertilizer compounds. Carbon dioxide pollution, NOx pollution are just fertilizers on their way to becoming plant food.

    Often the solution to pollution is dilution…pg

  4. Sören F says:

    Seems you can’t really cite the climate-change part of those news; with sources being of the mainstream Science-Communication breed, they have little clue there.

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Since they are plant food, ought that not be instead:

    “The solution to pollution is plantation”? 😉

  6. Phoenix44r says:

    So they have “discovered” why we use fertiliser?

  7. Gamecock says:

    ‘A discovery of this magnitude will open up a new era of research on this essential nutrient.’

    He smells money.

  8. Saighdear says:

    Uhuh….. I think the Book has to be re-written OR Maybe – just MAYBE we should go back and READ it again!. For the past few years I’d thought I’d been taught wrong .- seems some Universities DO teach wrong things – BUT, & as @p.g.sharrow states abut the N Cycle – I was correct all along! If the Masses n’ media can Flip over the, for example, #me2 or Plastic straws – now a plastics tax based on ‘recent study:- Rivers in 3rd Wrld being biggest Source of Plastics Pollution,’ what is wrong that this nonsense can’t be addressed correctly. ( I know there are some Elephants in the room, but you know the score there now – the “Ivory” )
    So what exactly IS the Atmosphere? A Pencil drawn line between ‘air’ and ground / seal-level ? Equally the argument for what entails the Environment…..If you go into my Farrowing house or amongst the Broilers, there is a completely different Environment from the Cattle Courts! Go outside in spring and Plough a Ley, you sense the smell of ……. Tell me 🙂 and so on it goes. Those Climate Models are just that – for wee boys to play with. ad infinitum….

  9. oldbrew says:


    Forget it. Nature already does it.

  10. dennisambler says:

    What goes around comes around – “Nitrogen in Rocks”, 2002

    “Nitrogen in rock has a potentially significant impact on localized nitrogen cycles. Elevated nitrogen concentrations in water and soil have been attributed to weathering of bedrock nitrogen. In some environments, nitrogen released from bedrock may contribute to nitrogen saturation of terrestrial ecosystems (more nitrogen available than required by biota).

    Nitrogen saturation results in leaching of nitrate to surface and groundwaters, and, where soils are formed from ammonium-rich bedrock, the oxidation of ammonium to nitrate may result in soil acidification, inhibiting revegetation in certain ecosystems.”

  11. peterandnen says:

    All atmospheric nitrogen came from rocks.
    Many plants fix atmospheric nitrogen.
    Many plants fix atmospheric carbon dioxide.
    Many climate “scientists” just need fixing.

  12. Gamecock says:

    ‘The discovery could greatly improve climate change projections’

    An admission that all before was crap.

    We will hear of many alleged improvements in the coming years, each a
    declaration that we should have never believed what they told us before.

  13. stpaulchuck says:

    here we go again…

  14. Damian says:
    “It found the greater precipitation delivered additional mass to the Antarctic ice sheet at a rate of 7 billion tonnes per decade between 1800 and 2010 and by 14 billion tonnes per decade when only the period from 1900 is considered.”
    “Theory predicts that, as Antarctica warms, the atmosphere should hold more moisture and that this should lead therefore to more snowfall. And what we’re showing in this study is that this has already been happening,” Dr Thomas said.”
    Their results show an increase in snowfall since 1800 which has accelerated in the 1900s… but it’s all due to AGW.
    Is there anything that isn’t evidence of AGW?

  15. oldbrew says:

    Damian: it’s up to the IPCC crowd to show evidence that warming is due to this, that or the other.

    Of course they can’t really do that without resorting to assertions and beliefs – and obviously inadequate climate models – so the arguments go on.

    Their inability to explain previous warm or cool periods (e.g. Little Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period etc.) and fondness for massaging temperature data look like clear pointers as to the weakness of their case.

  16. Ned Nikolov says:

    False connections made again!! If the bedrock does indeed supply up to 25% of the vegetation nitrogen demand, that’s good news for terrestrial ecosystems, but it has nothing to do with climate… How long will it take for the scientific community to rise above this 19th-Century delusion called “atmospheric greenhouse effect” and realize that the climate system is not controlled by some trace gases?! … For God’s sake, let’s look at the evidence and come to our senses:

    [mod] link asks for Twitter login

  17. oldbrew says:

    A Startling New Discovery Could Destroy All Those Global Warming Doomsday Forecasts

    Climate Change: Scientists just discovered a massive, heretofore unknown, source of nitrogen. Why does this matter? Because it could dramatically change those dire global warming forecasts that everybody claims are based on “settled science.”

    The researchers, whose findings were published in the prestigious journal Science, say they’ve determined that the idea that the only source of nitrogen for plant life came from the air is wrong. There are vast storehouses in the planet’s bedrock that plants also feed on.

    This is potentially huge news, since what it means is that there is a vastly larger supply of nitrogen than previously believed.

    University of California at Davis environmental scientist and co-author of the study, Ben Houlton, says that “This runs counter the centuries-long paradigm that has laid the foundation for the environmental sciences.”

    Pay close attention to the word “paradigm.”

    If Houlton’s finding about these vast, previously unknown nitrogen stores holds true, then it would have an enormous impact on global warming predictions.

    More here:

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