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One Kind of Pollution Helps Offset Another

One type of human pollution is helping to offset another one. One of our major pollutants is nitrogen, which comes from fertilizer run off. Another major pollutant is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which comes from car exhausts and power plant emissions. Now researchers have discovered that nitrogen deposits on the forest floor are helping young trees soak up even more CO2 than they normally would.

In New Scientist, Catherine Brahic says, "Nitrogen pumped into the environment by human activities such as driving cars and farming is fertilizing tree growth and boosting the amount of carbon being stored in forests outside the tropics?but [researchers] do not yet know what proportion of carbon dioxide emissions are being offset by the?release of nitrogen." Researchers have discovered that for every kilogram of nitrogen that is deposited on the forest floor, usually by the rain, FOUR TIMES AS MUCH CO2 is absorbed by the trees growing there.

Brahic quotes Italian researcher Federico Magnani as saying, "Even bad things can have a positive side effect. If we want to manage our environment in the right way for the next decades we must acknowledge both positive and negative effects."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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