New Way to Track Greenhouse Gases Created

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., May 25 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have created a more accurate method of calculating the change in greenhouse gas emissions that result from land use alterations.

University of Illinois researchers said their new technology takes into account many factors not included in previous methods and addresses the urgent need to accurately assess whether particular land-use projects will increase or decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

The lead author of the study, postdoctoral researcher Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, said the greenhouse gas value of a particular site depends on qualities such as the number and size of plants, the ecosystem’s ability to take up or release greenhouse gases over time and its vulnerability to natural disturbances, such as fire or hurricane damage.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

The new approach accounts for emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, expressing their net climatic effect in “carbon-dioxide equivalents” — a common currency in the carbon-trading market. That, Anderson-Teixeira said, allows scientists to compare the long-term effects of clearing a forest, for example, to the costs of other greenhouse gas emissions, such as those that result from burning fossil fuels for transportation, electricity, heat, or the production of biofuels.

The new technology is reported in the journal Global Change Biology.

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