Solar ultraviolet radiation creates an ozone layer in the atmosphere which in turn completely absorbs the most energetic fraction of this radiation. This process both warms the air, creating the stratosphere between 15 and 50 km altitude, and protects the biological activities at the Earth's surface from this damaging radiation. In the last half-century, the chemical mechanisms operating within the ozone layer have been shown to include very efficient catalytic chain reactions involving the chemical species HO, HO2, NO, NO2, Cl and ClO. The NOX and ClOX chains involve the emission at Earth's surface of stable molecules in very low concentration (N2O, CCl2F2, CCl3F, etc.) which wander in the atmosphere for as long as a century before absorbing ultraviolet radiation and decomposing to create NO and Cl in the middle of the stratospheric ozone layer. The growing emissions of synthetic chlorofluorocarbon molecules cause a significant diminution in the ozone content of the stratosphere, with the result that more solar ultraviolet-B radiation (290–320 nm wavelength) reaches the surface. This ozone loss occurs in the temperate zone latitudes in all seasons, and especially drastically since the early 1980s in the south polar springtime—the ‘Antarctic ozone hole’. The chemical reactions causing this ozone depletion are primarily based on atomic Cl and ClO, the product of its reaction with ozone. The further manufacture of chlorofluorocarbons has been banned by the 1992 revisions of the 1987 Montreal Protocol of the United Nations. Atmospheric measurements have confirmed that the Protocol has been very successful in reducing further emissions of these molecules. Recovery of the stratosphere to the ozone conditions of the 1950s will occur slowly over the rest of the twenty-first century because of the long lifetime of the precursor molecules.
chlorofluorocarbons; ozone depletion; stratosphere; ultraviolet; Montreal Protocol; Antarctic ozone hole
The nuclear reactions occurring in the cores of stars which are believed to produce the element oxygen are first described. Evidence for the absence of free oxygen in the early atmosphere of the earth is reviewed. Mechanisms of creation of atmospheric oxygen by photochemical processes are then discussed in detail. Uncertainty regarding the rate of diffusion of water vapor through the cold trap at 70 km altitude in calculating the rate of the photochemical production of oxygen is avoided by using data for the concentration of hydrogen atoms at 90 km obtained from the Meinel OH absorption bands. It is estimated that the present atmospheric oxygen content could have been produced five to ten times during the earth's history. It is shown that the isotopic composition of atmospheric oxygen is not that of photosynthetic oxygen. The fractionation of oxygen isotopes by organic respiration and oxidation occurs in a direction to enhance the O18 content of the atmosphere and compensates for the O18 dilution resulting from photosynthetic oxygen. Thus, an oxygen isotope cycle exists in nature.
The Earth's chemical composition far from chemical equilibrium is unique in our Solar System, and this uniqueness has been attributed to the presence of widespread life on the planet. Here, I show how this notion can be quantified using non-equilibrium thermodynamics. Generating and maintaining disequilibrium in a thermodynamic variable requires the extraction of power from another thermodynamic gradient, and the second law of thermodynamics imposes fundamental limits on how much power can be extracted. With this approach and associated limits, I show that the ability of abiotic processes to generate geochemical free energy that can be used to transform the surface–atmosphere environment is strongly limited to less than 1 TW. Photosynthetic life generates more than 200 TW by performing photochemistry, thereby substantiating the notion that a geochemical composition far from equilibrium can be a sign for strong biotic activity. Present-day free energy consumption by human activity in the form of industrial activity and human appropriated net primary productivity is of the order of 50 TW and therefore constitutes a considerable term in the free energy budget of the planet. When aiming to predict the future of the planet, we first note that since global changes are closely related to this consumption of free energy, and the demands for free energy by human activity are anticipated to increase substantially in the future, the central question in the context of predicting future global change is then how human free energy demands can increase sustainably without negatively impacting the ability of the Earth system to generate free energy. This question could be evaluated with climate models, and the potential deficiencies in these models to adequately represent the thermodynamics of the Earth system are discussed. Then, I illustrate the implications of this thermodynamic perspective by discussing the forms of renewable energy and planetary engineering that would enhance the overall free energy generation and, thereby ‘empower’ the future of the planet.
habitability; free energy; thermodynamics; global change; geoengineering
• Background Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer leads to an increase in ultraviolet-B (UVB: 280–320 nm) radiation reaching the earth's surface, and the enhanced solar UVB radiation predicted by atmospheric models will result in reduction of growth and yield of crops in the future. Over the last two decades, extensive studies of the physiological, biochemical and morphological effects of UVB in plants, as well as the mechanisms of UVB resistance, have been carried out.
• Scope In this review, we describe recent research into the mechanisms of UVB resistance in higher plants, with an emphasis on rice (Oryza sativa), one of the world's most important staple food crops. Recent studies have brought to light the following remarkable findings. UV-absorbing compounds accumulating in the epidermal cell layers have traditionally been considered to function as UV filters, and to play an important role in countering the damaging effects of UVB radiation. Although these compounds are effective in reducing cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD) induction in plants exposed to a challenge exposure to UVB, certain levels of CPD are maintained constitutively in light conditions containing UVB, regardless of the quantity or presence of visible light. These findings imply that the systems for repairing DNA damage and scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS) are essential for plants to grow in light conditions containing UVB.
• Conclusion CPD photolyase activity is a crucial factor determining the differences in UVB sensitivity between rice cultivars. The substitution of one or two bases in the CPD photolyase gene can alter the activity of the enzyme, and the associated resistance of the plant to UVB radiation. These findings open up the possibility, in the near future, of increasing the resistance of rice to UVB radiation, by selective breeding or bioengineering of the genes encoding CPD photolyase.
Ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB: 280–320 nm); rice (Oryza sativa); cyclobutane pyrimidine dimer (CPD); CPD photolyase; reactive oxygen species (ROS); UV-absorbing compounds; UVB resistance; UVB sensitivity; photorepair; dark repair; bioengineering; selective breeding
Only a few environmental factors have such a pronounced effect on plant growth and development as ultraviolet light (UV). Concerns have arisen due to increased UV-B radiation reaching the Earth’s surface as a result of stratospheric ozone depletion. Ecologically relevant low to moderate UV-B doses (0.3–1 kJ m–2 d–1) were applied to sprouts of the important vegetable crop Brassica oleracea var. italica (broccoli), and eco-physiological responses such as accumulation of non-volatile secondary metabolites were related to transcriptional responses with Agilent One-Color Gene Expression Microarray analysis using the 2×204 k format Brassica microarray. UV-B radiation effects have usually been linked to increases in phenolic compounds. As expected, the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin accumulated in broccoli sprouts (the aerial part of the seedlings) 24 h after UV-B treatment. A new finding is the specific UV-B-mediated induction of glucosinolates (GS), especially of 4-methylsulfinylbutyl GS and 4-methoxy-indol-3-ylmethyl GS, while carotenoids and Chl levels remained unaffected. Accumulation of defensive GS metabolites was accompanied by increased expression of genes associated with salicylate and jasmonic acid signaling defense pathways and up-regulation of genes responsive to fungal and bacterial pathogens. Concomitantly, plant pre-exposure to moderate UV-B doses had negative effects on the performance of the caterpillar Pieris brassicae (L.) and on the population growth of the aphid Myzus persicae (Sulzer). Moreover, insect-specific induction of GS in broccoli sprouts was affected by UV-B pre-treatment.
Brassica array; Broccoli; Glucosinolates; Insect performance; Plant defense signaling; UV-B
Throughout evolution, all organisms have harnessed the redox properties of copper (Cu) and iron (Fe) as a cofactor or structural determinant of proteins that perform critical functions in biology. At its most sobering stance to Earth’s biome, Cu biochemistry allows photosynthetic organisms to harness solar energy and convert it into the organic energy that sustains the existence of all nonphotosynthetic life forms. The conversion of organic energy, in the form of nutrients that include carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids, is subsequently released during cellular respiration, itself a Cu-dependent process, and stored as ATP that is used to drive a myriad of critical biological processes such as enzyme-catalyzed biosynthetic processes, transport of cargo around cells and across membranes, and protein degradation. The life-supporting properties of Cu incur a significant challenge to cells that must not only exquisitely balance intracellular Cu concentrations, but also chaperone this redox-active metal from its point of cellular entry to its ultimate destination so as to avert the potential for inappropriate biochemical interactions or generation of damaging reactive oxidative species (ROS). In this review we chart the travels of Cu from the extracellular milieu of fungal and mammalian cells, its path within the cytosol as inferred by the proteins and ligands that escort and deliver Cu to intracellular organelles and protein targets, and its journey throughout the body of mammals.
Copper; homeostasis; yeast; mammals; transporters; chaperone
Ozone exposure is a growing global health problem, especially in urban areas. While ozone in the stratosphere protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet light, tropospheric or ground-level ozone is toxic and can damage the respiratory tract. It has recently been shown that ozone may be produced endogenously in inflammation and antibacterial responses of the immune system; however, these results have sparked controversy owing to the use of a non-specific colorimetric probe. Here we report the synthesis of fluorescent molecular probes able to unambiguously detect ozone in both biological and atmospheric samples. Unlike other ozone-detection methods, in which interference from different reactive oxygen species is often a problem, these probes are ozone specific. Such probes will prove useful for the study of ozone in environmental science and biology, and so possibly provide some insight into the role of ozone in cells.
Global atmospheric changes such as depletion of ozone in the stratosphere are thought to lead to increased levels of ultraviolet radiation on earth. This can have adverse effects on human health, and long-term effects of ultraviolet light on the eye are of increasing concern. Ultraviolet light exposure to the eye has been associated with cataract formation and retinal degeneration. In both cases, it is hypothesized that ultraviolet light can initiate formation of free radicals, which can cause protein modification and lipid peroxidation. Several procedures can be recommended to prevent ultraviolet light damage to the eye, such as the use of suitable protective glasses when outdoors.
Space missions have enabled testing how microorganisms, animals and plants respond to extra-terrestrial, complex and hazardous environment in space. Photosynthetic organisms are thought to be relatively more prone to microgravity, weak magnetic field and cosmic radiation because oxygenic photosynthesis is intimately associated with capture and conversion of light energy into chemical energy, a process that has adapted to relatively less complex and contained environment on Earth. To study the direct effect of the space environment on the fundamental process of photosynthesis, we sent into low Earth orbit space engineered and mutated strains of the unicellular green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which has been widely used as a model of photosynthetic organisms. The algal mutants contained specific amino acid substitutions in the functionally important regions of the pivotal Photosystem II (PSII) reaction centre D1 protein near the QB binding pocket and in the environment surrounding Tyr-161 (YZ) electron acceptor of the oxygen-evolving complex. Using real-time measurements of PSII photochemistry, here we show that during the space flight while the control strain and two D1 mutants (A250L and V160A) were inefficient in carrying out PSII activity, two other D1 mutants, I163N and A251C, performed efficient photosynthesis, and actively re-grew upon return to Earth. Mimicking the neutron irradiation component of cosmic rays on Earth yielded similar results. Experiments with I163N and A251C D1 mutants performed on ground showed that they are better able to modulate PSII excitation pressure and have higher capacity to reoxidize the QA− state of the primary electron acceptor. These results highlight the contribution of D1 conformation in relation to photosynthesis and oxygen production in space.
One of the goals of the present Martian exploration is to search for evidence of extinct (or even extant) life. This could be redefined as a search for carbon. The carbon cycle (or, more properly, cycles) on Earth is a complex interaction among three reservoirs: the atmosphere; the hydrosphere; and the lithosphere. Superimposed on this is the biosphere, and its presence influences the fixing and release of carbon in these reservoirs over different time-scales. The overall carbon balance is kept at equilibrium on the surface by a combination of tectonic processes (which bury carbon), volcanism (which releases it) and biology (which mediates it). In contrast to Earth, Mars presently has no active tectonic system; neither does it possess a significant biosphere. However, these observations might not necessarily have held in the past. By looking at how Earth's carbon cycles have changed with time, as both the Earth's tectonic structure and a more sophisticated biology have evolved, and also by constructing a carbon cycle for Mars based on the carbon chemistry of Martian meteorites, we investigate whether or not there is evidence for a Martian biosphere.
Earth; Mars; carbon; cycle; life
Photosynthesis is the biological process that converts solar energy to biomass, bio-products, and biofuel. It is the only major natural solar energy storage mechanism on Earth. To satisfy the increased demand for sustainable energy sources and identify the mechanism of photosynthetic carbon assimilation, which is one of the bottlenecks in photosynthesis, it is essential to understand the process of solar energy storage and associated carbon metabolism in photosynthetic organisms. Researchers have employed physiological studies, microbiological chemistry, enzyme assays, genome sequencing, transcriptomics, and 13C-based metabolomics/fluxomics to investigate central carbon metabolism and enzymes that operate in phototrophs. In this report, we review diverse CO2 assimilation pathways, acetate assimilation, carbohydrate catabolism, the tricarboxylic acid cycle and some key, and/or unconventional enzymes in central carbon metabolism of phototrophic microorganisms. We also discuss the reducing equivalent flow during photoautotrophic and photoheterotrophic growth, evolutionary links in the central carbon metabolic network, and correlations between photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic organisms. Considering the metabolic versatility in these fascinating and diverse photosynthetic bacteria, many essential questions in their central carbon metabolism still remain to be addressed.
acetate assimilation; autotrophic and anaplerotic CO2 assimilation; biomass and biofuel; 13C-based metabolomics; citrate metabolism; photosynthesis; unconventional pathways and enzymes
C4 photosynthesis has evolved more than 60 times as a carbon-concentrating mechanism to augment the ancestral C3 photosynthetic pathway. The rate and the efficiency of photosynthesis are greater in the C4 than C3 type under atmospheric CO2 depletion, high light and temperature, suggesting these factors as important selective agents. This hypothesis is consistent with comparative analyses of grasses, which indicate repeated evolutionary transitions from shaded forest to open habitats. However, such environmental transitions also impact strongly on plant–water relations. We hypothesize that excessive demand for water transport associated with low CO2, high light and temperature would have selected for C4 photosynthesis not only to increase the efficiency and rate of photosynthesis, but also as a water-conserving mechanism. Our proposal is supported by evidence from the literature and physiological models. The C4 pathway allows high rates of photosynthesis at low stomatal conductance, even given low atmospheric CO2. The resultant decrease in transpiration protects the hydraulic system, allowing stomata to remain open and photosynthesis to be sustained for longer under drying atmospheric and soil conditions. The evolution of C4 photosynthesis therefore simultaneously improved plant carbon and water relations, conferring strong benefits as atmospheric CO2 declined and ecological demand for water rose.
C4 photosynthesis; C3 photosynthesis; atmospheric CO2; plant evolution; drought; hydraulics
Metabolic innovation has facilitated the radiation of microbes into almost every niche environment on the Earth, and over geological time scales transformed the planet on which we live. A notable example of innovation is the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis which was a prelude to the gradual transformation of an anoxic Earth into a world with oxygenated oceans and an oxygen-rich atmosphere capable of supporting complex multicellular organisms. The influence of microbial innovation on the Earth's history and the timing of pivotal events have been addressed in other recent themed editions of Philosophical Transactions of Royal Society B (Cavalier-Smith et al. 2006; Bendall et al. 2008). In this issue, our contributors provide a timely history of metabolic innovation and adaptation within unicellular eukaryotes. In eukaryotes, diverse metabolic portfolios are compartmentalized across multiple membrane-bounded compartments (or organelles). However, as a consequence of pathway retargeting, organelle degeneration or novel endosymbiotic associations, the metabolic repertoires of protists often differ extensively from classic textbook descriptions of intermediary metabolism. These differences are often important in the context of niche adaptation or the structure of microbial communities. Fundamentally interesting in its own right, the biochemical, cell biological and phylogenomic investigation of organellar metabolism also has wider relevance. For instance, in some pathogens, notably those causing some of the most significant tropical diseases, including malaria, unusual organellar metabolism provides important new drug targets. Moreover, the study of organellar metabolism in protists continues to provide critical insight into our understanding of eukaryotic evolution.
adaptation; cellular metabolism; endosymbiosis; organellar genomes; organellogenesis; protein targeting
The Arctic cryosphere is a critically important component of the earth system, affecting the earth’s energy balance, sea level, greenhouse gases and atmospheric circulation, transport of heat through ocean circulation, ecology and human resource use and well-being. The Arctic cryosphere is, however, changing rapidly with multiple important consequences that will potentially affect the earth system including the human population. The drivers of changes in the Arctic’s cryosphere, the recent and projected changes in the cryosphere and the consequences for future climate warming, sea level rise, ecology and human well-being, have been comprehensively assessed by the Arctic Council’s Snow Water, Ice, and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) Project through its Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Working Group. This article introduces the assessment and the associated papers within a special issue of the journal Ambio that extract and present some of the major findings of the SWIPA report.
Snow; Water; Ice; Permafrost; Arctic; Climate feedbacks; Ecology; Atmospheric circulation; Ocean circulation; Societies; Cultures; Peoples
Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) is a powerful technology for observing the Earth surface, especially for mapping the Earth's topography and deformations. InSAR measurements are however often significantly affected by the atmosphere as the radar signals propagate through the atmosphere whose state varies both in space and in time. Great efforts have been made in recent years to better understand the properties of the atmospheric effects and to develop methods for mitigating the effects. This paper provides a systematic review of the work carried out in this area. The basic principles of atmospheric effects on repeat-pass InSAR are first introduced. The studies on the properties of the atmospheric effects, including the magnitudes of the effects determined in the various parts of the world, the spectra of the atmospheric effects, the isotropic properties and the statistical distributions of the effects, are then discussed. The various methods developed for mitigating the atmospheric effects are then reviewed, including the methods that are based on PSInSAR processing, the methods that are based on interferogram modeling, and those that are based on external data such as GPS observations, ground meteorological data, and satellite data including those from the MODIS and MERIS. Two examples that use MODIS and MERIS data respectively to calibrate atmospheric effects on InSAR are also given.
Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR); atmospheric effects; atmospheric correction; MODIS; MERIS
The abundant pigment-protein membrane complex photosystem-I (PS-I) is at the heart of the Earth’s energy cycle. It is the central molecule in the “Z-scheme” of photosynthesis, converting sunlight into the chemical energy of life. Commandeering this intricately organized photosynthetic nanocircuitry and re-wiring it to produce electricity carries the promise of inexpensive and environmentally friendly solar power. We here report that dry PS-I stabilized by surfactant peptides functioned as both the light-harvester and charge separator in solar cells self-assembled on nanostructured semiconductors. Contrary to previous attempts at biophotovoltaics requiring elaborate surface chemistries, thin film deposition, and illumination concentrated into narrow wavelength ranges the devices described here are straightforward and inexpensive to fabricate and perform well under standard sunlight yielding open circuit photovoltage of 0.5 V, fill factor of 71%, electrical power density of 81 µW/cm2 and photocurrent density of 362 µA/cm2, over four orders of magnitude higher than any photosystem-based biophotovoltaic to date.
• Background and Aims Influences of rising global CO2 concentration and temperature on plant growth and ecosystem function have become major concerns, but how photosynthesis changes with CO2 and temperature in the field is poorly understood. Therefore, studies were made of the effect of elevated CO2 on temperature dependence of photosynthetic rates in rice (Oryza sativa) grown in a paddy field, in relation to seasons in two years.
• Methods Photosynthetic rates were determined monthly for rice grown under free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) compared to the normal atmosphere (570 vs 370 µmol mol−1). Temperature dependence of the maximum rate of RuBP (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate) carboxylation (Vcmax) and the maximum rate of electron transport (Jmax) were analysed with the Arrhenius equation. The photosynthesis–temperature response was reconstructed to determine the optimal temperature (Topt) that maximizes the photosynthetic rate.
• Key Results and Conclusions There was both an increase in the absolute value of the light-saturated photosynthetic rate at growth CO2 (Pgrowth) and an increase in Topt for Pgrowth caused by elevated CO2 in FACE conditions. Seasonal decrease in Pgrowth was associated with a decrease in nitrogen content per unit leaf area (Narea) and thus in the maximum rate of electron transport (Jmax) and the maximum rate of RuBP carboxylation (Vcmax). At ambient CO2, Topt increased with increasing growth temperature due mainly to increasing activation energy of Vcmax. At elevated CO2, Topt did not show a clear seasonal trend. Temperature dependence of photosynthesis was changed by seasonal climate and plant nitrogen status, which differed between ambient and elevated CO2.
Temperature dependence; photosynthesis; optimal temperature; activation energy; limiting step; temperature acclimation; free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE); seasonal change; rice; Oryza sativa
Atmospheric CO2 concentrations appear to have been considerably higher than modern levels during much of the Phanerozoic and it has hence been proposed that surface temperatures were also higher. Some studies have, however, suggested that Earth's temperature (estimated from the isotopic composition of fossil shells) may have been independent of variations in atmospheric CO2 (e.g. in the Jurassic and Cretaceous). If large changes in atmospheric CO2 did not produce the expected climate responses in the past, predictions of future climate and the case for reducing current fossil-fuel emissions are potentially undermined. Here we evaluate the dataset upon which the Jurassic and Cretaceous assertions are based and present new temperature data, derived from the isotopic composition of fossil brachiopods. Our results are consistent with a warm climate mode for the Jurassic and Cretaceous and hence support the view that changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations are linked with changes in global temperatures.
Before the advent of oxygenic photosynthesis, the biosphere was driven by anaerobic metabolisms. We catalogue and quantify the source strengths of the most probable electron donors and electron acceptors that would have been available to fuel early-Earth ecosystems. The most active ecosystems were probably driven by the cycling of H2 and Fe2+ through primary production conducted by anoxygenic phototrophs. Interesting and dynamic ecosystems would have also been driven by the microbial cycling of sulphur and nitrogen species, but their activity levels were probably not so great. Despite the diversity of potential early ecosystems, rates of primary production in the early-Earth anaerobic biosphere were probably well below those rates observed in the marine environment. We shift our attention to the Earth environment at 3.8 Gyr ago, where the earliest marine sediments are preserved. We calculate, consistent with the carbon isotope record and other considerations of the carbon cycle, that marine rates of primary production at this time were probably an order of magnitude (or more) less than today. We conclude that the flux of reduced species to the Earth surface at this time may have been sufficient to drive anaerobic ecosystems of sufficient activity to be consistent with the carbon isotope record. Conversely, an ecosystem based on oxygenic photosynthesis was also possible with complete removal of the oxygen by reaction with reduced species from the mantle.
Archaean; evolution; hydrogen; anoxygenic photosynthesis; iron; metabolism
Plants with the C4 photosynthetic pathway dominate today's tropical savannahs and grasslands, and account for some 30% of global terrestrial carbon fixation. Their success stems from a physiological CO2-concentrating pump, which leads to high photosynthetic efficiency in warm climates and low atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Remarkably, their dominance of tropical environments was achieved in only the past 10 million years (Myr), less than 3% of the time that terrestrial plants have existed on Earth. We critically review the proposal that declining atmospheric CO2 triggered this tropical revolution via its effects on the photosynthetic efficiency of leaves. Our synthesis of the latest geological evidence from South Asia and North America suggests that this emphasis is misplaced. Instead, we find important roles for regional climate change and fire in South Asia, but no obvious environmental trigger for C4 success in North America. CO2-starvation is implicated in the origins of C4 plants 25–32 Myr ago, raising the possibility that the pathway evolved under more extreme atmospheric conditions experienced 10 times earlier. However, our geochemical analyses provide no evidence of the C4 mechanism at this time, although possible ancestral components of the C4 pathway are identified in ancient plant lineages. We suggest that future research must redress the substantial imbalance between experimental investigations and analyses of the geological record.
atmospheric CO2 concentration; C4 plants; plant evolution; stable carbon isotopes
The general circulation model ECHAM has been coupled to a chemistry and sulphur cycle model to study the impact of terrestrial, i.e. mostly anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2), sources on global distributions of sulphur species in the atmosphere. We briefly address currently available source inventories. It appears that global estimates of natural emissions are associated with uncertainties up to a factor of 2, while anthropogenic emissions have uncertainty ranges of about +/- 30 per cent. Further, some recent improvements in the model descriptions of multiphase chemistry and deposition processes are presented. Dry deposition is modelled consistently with meteorological processes and surface properties. The results indicate that surface removal of SO2 is less efficient than previously assumed, and that the SO2 lifetime is thus longer. Coupling of the photochemistry and sulphur chemistry schemes in the model improves the treatment of multiphase processes such as oxidant (hydrogen peroxide) supply in aqueous phase SO2 oxidation. The results suggest that SO2 oxidation by ozone (O3) in the aqueous phase is more important than indicated in earlier work. However, it appears that we still overestimate atmospheric SO2 concentrations near the surface in the relatively polluted Northern Hemisphere. On the other hand, we somewhat underestimate sulphate levels in these regions, which suggests that additional heterogeneous reaction mechanisms, e.g. on aerosols, enhance SO2 oxidation.
Global Modelling Multiphase Chemistry Atmospheric Sulphur Dry Deposition
The complexity of the problem of the origin of life has spawned a large number of possible evolutionary scenarios. Their number, however, can be dramatically reduced by the simultaneous consideration of various bioenergetic, physical, and geological constraints.
This work puts forward an evolutionary scenario that satisfies the known constraints by proposing that life on Earth emerged, powered by UV-rich solar radiation, at photosynthetically active porous edifices made of precipitated zinc sulfide (ZnS) similar to those found around modern deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Under the high pressure of the primeval, carbon dioxide-dominated atmosphere ZnS could precipitate at the surface of the first continents, within reach of solar light. It is suggested that the ZnS surfaces (1) used the solar radiation to drive carbon dioxide reduction, yielding the building blocks for the first biopolymers, (2) served as templates for the synthesis of longer biopolymers from simpler building blocks, and (3) prevented the first biopolymers from photo-dissociation, by absorbing from them the excess radiation. In addition, the UV light may have favoured the selective enrichment of photostable, RNA-like polymers. Falsification tests of this hypothesis are described in the accompanying article (A.Y. Mulkidjanian, M.Y. Galperin, Biology Direct 2009, 4:27).
The suggested "Zn world" scenario identifies the geological conditions under which photosynthesizing ZnS edifices of hydrothermal origin could emerge and persist on primordial Earth, includes a mechanism of the transient storage and utilization of solar light for the production of diverse organic compounds, and identifies the driving forces and selective factors that could have promoted the transition from the first simple, photostable polymers to more complex living organisms.
This paper was reviewed by Arcady Mushegian, Simon Silver (nominated by Arcady Mushegian), Antoine Danchin (nominated by Eugene Koonin) and Dieter Braun (nominated by Sergey Maslov).
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are stable in the atmosphere and may reach the stratosphere. They are cleaved by UV-radiation in the stratosphere to yield chlorine radicals, which are thought to interfere with the catalytic cycle of ozone formation and destruction and deplete stratospheric ozone concentrations. Due to potential adverse health effects of ozone depletion, chlorofluorocarbon replacements with much lower or absent ozone depleting potential are developed. The toxicology of these compounds that represent chlorofluorohydrocarbons (HCFCs) or fluorohydrocarbons (HFCs) has been intensively studied. All compounds investigated (1, 1-dichloro-1-fluoroethane [HCFC-141b], 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane [HFC-134a], pentafluoroethane [HFC-125], 1-chloro- 1,2,2,2-tetrafluoroethane [HCFC-124], and 1,1-dichloro-2,2,2-trifluoroethane [HCFC-123]) show only a low potential for skin and eye irritation. Chronic adverse effects on the liver (HCFC-123) and the testes (HCFC-141b and HCFC-134a), including tumor formation, were observed in long-term inhalation studies in rodents using very high concentrations of these CFC replacements. All CFC replacements are, to varying extents, biotransformed in the organism, mainly by cytochrome P450-catalyzed oxidation of C-H bonds. The formed acyl halides are hydrolyzed to give excretable carboxylic acids; halogenated aldehydes that are formed may be further oxidized to halogenated carboxylic acids or reduced to halogenated alcohols, which are excretory metabolites in urine from rodents exposed experimentally to CFC replacements. The chronic toxicity of the CFC replacements studied is unlikely to be of relevance for humans exposed during production and application of CFC replacements.
Recent studies predict that the Arctic Ocean will have ice-free summers within the next 30 years. This poses a significant challenge for the marine organisms associated with the Arctic sea ice, such as marine mammals and, not least, the ice-associated crustaceans generally considered to spend their entire life on the underside of the Arctic sea ice. Based upon unique samples collected within the Arctic Ocean during the polar night, we provide a new conceptual understanding of an intimate connection between these under-ice crustaceans and the deep Arctic Ocean currents. We suggest that downwards vertical migrations, followed by polewards transport in deep ocean currents, are an adaptive trait of ice fauna that both increases survival during ice-free periods of the year and enables re-colonization of sea ice when they ascend within the Arctic Ocean. From an evolutionary perspective, this may have been an adaptation allowing success in a seasonally ice-covered Arctic. Our findings may ultimately change the perception of ice fauna as a biota imminently threatened by the predicted disappearance of perennial sea ice.
Arctic; sea-ice fauna; conceptual model; deep sea; migration; life history
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are being developed as replacements for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that deplete stratospheric ozone. The depletion of stratospheric ozone may increase the intensity of ultraviolet radiation at the earth's surface, which may be associated with global, adverse human health effects. The greater tropospheric lability of HCFCs, which is due to the presence of C-H bonds, reduces HCFC migration to the stratosphere; HCFCs should, therefore, cause less depletion of stratospheric ozone than CFCs. HCFCs under development include HCFC-22 (chlorodifluoromethane), HCFC-123 (2,2-dichloro-1,1,1-trifluoroethane), HCFC-132b (1,2-dichloro-1,1-difluoroethane), HCFC-134a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane), HCFC-141b (1,1-dichloro-1-fluoroethane, and HCFC-142b (1-chloro-1,1-difluoroethane). With the exception of HCFC-22, which is already in use, the metabolism and toxicity of HCFCs have not been studied in detail. By analogy to chlorinated ethanes, predictions can be made about the possible metabolism of HCFCs, but there are insufficient data available to predict rates of metabolism. Although most HCFCs appear to show low acute toxicity, some HCFCs are mutagenic in the Ames test. Hence, future research on HCFCs should include studies on the in vivo and in vitro metabolism of HCFCs as well as on their toxicity in in vivo and in vitro systems.