Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of East Anglia
Dates: Oct 2007-Sep 2012
Summary: Nitrous oxide (N2O) has a ~300-fold greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide (CO2) and has been described as the biggest single cause of ozone depletion over the arctic. Its atmospheric loading is increasing by ~0.25% each year, and it has a very long atmospheric lifetime of ~150 years. Although N2O emissions are less than 0.01% of CO2 emissions, N2O is estimated to contribute up to 9% of the global radiative forcing of greenhouse gas emissions]. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of anthropogenic atmospheric loading of N2O, which is largely microbial in origin. Understanding the environmental factors that control N2O production and consumption by microbes is a critical and major challenge on the road to developing practical mitigation strategies for N2O emissions. We have established the levels of copper in the environment directly impact on N2O. As arable lands become more intensively exploited Cu-deficiency is becoming a more acute global concern. For example it was recently estimated that around ~20% of arable lands in Europe are biologically copper deficient. Our observation is that copper-deficiency leads to bacteria emitting N2O and raises the possibility of using copper fertilization strategies to mitigate N2O release.