Mosses, lichens, cyanobacteria, and other non-plant photosynthetic organisms were one of the most important natural carbon sinks — they recycle up to 7% of the total amount of carbon dioxide CO2, which absorbs the entire biosphere of the Earth for the year, climate scientists say in a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
On Earth, there are many unicellular and multicellular organisms, which absorb carbon dioxide and use it to produce nutrients. Despite the large number and diversity of these organisms and their role in the carbon cycle in nature is still poorly understood.
Group of climate scientists led by Ulrich went (Ulrich Poschl) from the Institute of Chemistry of the Max Planck Society in Mainz (Germany) to evaluate the contribution of these organisms in the global balance of carbon and carbon dioxide in nature, analyzing the results of more than 200 scientific papers on life of mosses, lichens, cyanobacteria and other organisms.
Comparison and integration of other developments have allowed climatologists went and his colleagues obtained data on the colonies of these organisms in all regions of the world and assess their overall contribution to the carbon cycle.
In general, mosses, lichens and other photosynthetic organisms absorb about 14.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is about 7% of the total amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed by the biosphere for the year. This amount of carbon dioxide is comparable to the amount of CO2 that is released by all industries of the Earth.
According to scientists, this group of organisms is the most effective in absorbing carbon dioxide in forests of temperate and subtropical zones, and least of all — in the equatorial and tropical regions. Therefore, the colony of lichens and mosses in Europe were the most productive in terms of converting carbon dioxide into biomass, and their African counterparts — the least active.
In addition, this group of organisms is a major supplier of nitrogen to the biosphere — they record from 30 to 80% of the total biological nitrogen depending on the type of terrain and climate. On the whole, they add up to 49 million tons of nitrogen to the biosphere, which is about 46% of the annual increase in the mass of organic nitrogen.
According to the researchers, such a high role in nitrogen fixation should be reflected in the ability of ordinary plants fix carbon dioxide. As the researchers note, the lack of nitrogen in the soil limits the ability of plants to process CO2 and large colonies of lichens, mosses and cyanobacteria have a positive impact on the efficiency of photosynthesis, the leaves of trees, shrubs and grasses.
"Overall, our results indicate that these photosynthetic organisms on the surface of the soil and on the bark of plants play an important role in the carbon cycle and the nitrogen and thus should clearly be taken into account in the modeling of the Earth's climate," — concludes the author.