Field measurement of the fate of atmospheric H₂ in a forest environment : from canopy to soil
Author(s)Meredith, Laura Kelsey, 1982-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Ronald G. Prinn.
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Atmospheric hydrogen (H₂ ), an indirect greenhouse gas, plays a notable role in the chemistry of the atmosphere and ozone layer. Current anthropogenic emissions of H₂ are substantial and may increase with its widespread use as a fuel. The H₂ budget is dominated by the microbe-mediated soil sink, and although its significance has long been recognized, our understanding is limited by the low temporal and spatial resolution of traditional field measurements. This thesis was designed to improve the process-based understanding of the H₂ soil sink with targeted field and lab measurements. In the field, ecosystem-scale flux measurements of atmospheric H₂ were made both above and below the forest canopy for over a year using a custom, automated instrument at the Harvard Forest. H₂ fluxes were derived using a flux-gradient technique from the H₂ concentration gradient and the turbulent eddy coefficient. A ten-fold improvement in precision was attained over traditional systems, which was critical for quantifying the whole ecosystem flux from small H2 concentration gradients above the turbulent forest canopy. Soil uptake of atmospheric H₂ was the dominant process in this forest ecosystem. Rates peaked in the summer and persisted at reduced levels in the winter season, even across a 70 cm snowpack. We present correlations of the H₂ flux with environmental variables (e.g., soil temperature and moisture). This work is the most comprehensive attempt to elucidate the processes controlling biosphere-atmosphere exchange of H₂ . Our results will help reduce uncertainty in the present-day H₂ budget and improve projections of the response of the H₂ soil sink to global change. In the lab, we isolated microbial strains of the genus Streptomyces from Harvard Forest and found that the genetic potential for atmospheric H₂ uptake predicted H₂ consumption activity. Furthermore, two soil Actinobacteria were found to utilize H₂ only during specific lifecycle stages. The lifecycle of soil microorganisms can be quite complex as an adaptation to variable environmental conditions. Our results indicate that H₂ may be an important energetic supplement to soil microorganisms under stress. These results add to the understanding of the connections between the environment, organismal life cycle, and soil H₂ uptake.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, 2013.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 245-254).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.