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Glacial retreat in cold, high-altitude ecosystems exposes environments that are extremely sensitive to phosphorus input, new University of Colorado Boulder-led research shows. The finding upends previous ecological assumptions, helps scientists understand plant and microbe responses to climate change and could expand scientists' understanding of the limits to life on Earth.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Science Advances, found that even in mountainous terrain above 17,000 feet above sea level, where soils freeze every night of the year, the addition of phosphorus resulted in rapid growth of plants and photosynthetic microbes, allowing them to overcome the chilly, arid climate.
Life - Steven - Schmidt - Professor - CU
"Life is more resourceful than we might have previously suspected," said Steven Schmidt, a professor in CU Boulder's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO) and a co-author of the research. "Phosphorus allows microbes to react quickly and grow in these sites."
Nitrogen and phosphorus are both essential nutrients for vegetation and microbes, but plants are slower to re-grow in dry, high-elevation sites than in wet, temperate areas. Based on classical experiments, researchers had suspected that this sluggish regeneration was primarily due to the harsh climate and the relative lack of the nitrogen, limiting the potential for organic life.
Thought - Nitrogen
"The thought has always been that nitrogen...
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