Wallflowers of the Earth system
Posted: 03 Jun 2012 04:16 PM PDT
In cities, the presence of algae, lichens, and mosses is not considered desirable and they are often removed from roofs and walls. It is, however, totally unfair to consider these cryptogamic covers, as the flat growths are referred to in scientific terms, just a nuisance. Scientists have discovered that these mostly inconspicuous looking growths take up huge amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrogen and fix it at the earth’s surface. Cryptogamic covers are responsible for about half of the naturally occurring nitrogen fixation on land and they take up as much carbon dioxide as is released yearly from biomass burning. These new findings will help to improve global flux calculations and climate models, in which up to now the carbon and nitrogen balance of the cryptogamic covers have been neglected.