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Hydrogen Soil Sink Research Proposal1

Hydrogen Soil Sink Research Proposal1

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Understanding the Hydrogen Soil Sink Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research Site
WRITTEN BY DEEPA RAO
Direct Advisor: Laura Meredith -predawn@mit.eduFaculty Supervisor: Professor Ron Prinn -rprinn@mit.edu
Fall 2010 - Spring 2012
RESEARCH PROPOSAL
 Massachusetts Institute of Technology : Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
drao@mit.edu 229 Vassar St. Room 1073 Simmons Hall, Cambridge, MA 02139 602.410.6576
 
A B S T R A C T
 Atmospheric H
2
is a secondary greenhouse gas (GHG) and is vital to the removal of methane(CH
4
 ) from the atmosphere. Natural and anthropogenic outputs are nearly equally responsible assources of H
2
and human output is expected to increase in the future. Soil microorganisms areresponsible for about 80% of the Earth’s atmospheric H
2
sink and are the least understood termin the overall H
2
budget. It is speculated that
Streptomyces 
, a ubiquitous genus of soil microbe, is alarge contributor to H
2
deposition through its enzyme: hydrogenase. Specifically,
Streptomyces 
hasa unique high-affinity, low-threshold hydrogenase. How 
Streptomyces 
and other hydrogenase-containing microbes respond to changes in the climate can help us predict if and how the H
2
 cycle can potentially change. We will examine soil uptake of H
2
by isolating and varying the envi-ronment of 
Streptomyces 
from the Harvard Forest (HF) and by measuring soil’s H
2
flux in a set of plots that cover a wide range of environmental conditions (soil moisture, temperature, increasedand decreased levels of H
2
, etc.). So far, we have optimized a protocol for
Streptomyces 
isolationfrom forest soil, extraction of DNA, and amplification of the hydrogenase DNA sequencethrough polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We plan on testing our isolated strains to see if theirH
2
uptake drastically alters under different environmental conditions. The second part of ourproject deals with measuring H
2
uptake by using flux chambers in various long-term plotsaround the HF (nitrogen amendment, heated, litter removal. plots, etc.) With these two methodscombined, we will gain a better understanding about the variability of the Earth’s largest H
2
sink and how it may respond to climate change.
Understanding the Earth’s Hydrogen Sink 
!
MIT
Rao 2
 
Understanding the Microbial Control of Earth’sHydrogen Soil Sink through the Isolation of 
Streptomyces
NATURE OF RESEARCH
 As our global community explores new and exciting energy options, we must understand theconsequences of these technologies on our biosphere. Along with new energy solutions comechanges in the emissions of direct and indirect greenhouse gases (GHGs). These molecules candramatically affect the chemistry of the atmosphere, oceans, and soils, leading to potentialchanges in the radiative budget of the atmosphere. Before radical shifts in energy use occur, wemust thoroughly examine the potential unintended consequences of these new energy technolo-gies on the concentrations of their associated direct and indirect GHGs. To replace fossil fuels,one of many solutions includes using H
2
as an energy carrier. Whether H
2
technologies are usedas mobile or stationary energy carriers, there will be leaks associated with its storage. If thesetechnologies are increasingly employed, the anthropogenic input of H
2
into the atmosphere willincrease, and could potentially alter the oxidative environment of our atmosphere. Atmospheric H
2
is an important indirect greenhouse gas; it attenuates the removal of methane(CH
4
 ) and other GHGs by reacting with the atmosphere’s cleansing hydroxyl radical ( 
· 
OH).
· 
OH is generated by photochemical reactions and has a very short lifetime and fairly low con-centrations. It acts as an atmospheric cleansing radical by breaking down other atmosphericgases. A pertinent example to climate change models is of 
· 
OH’s ‘cleansing’ the atmosphere of the strong GHG methane (CH
4
 ). Methane as a GHG is ~25 times stronger per ton than CO
2
.
· 
 OH is a major sink for methane by the following reactions:(1) CH
4
+
· 
OH
 
· 
CH
3
+ H
2
OIt is also the minor sink for H2 ( approximately 20%):(2) H
2
+
· 
OH
 
· 
H + H
2
O (reaction 4) The reason H2 is an indirect greenhouse gas is that H2 is competing for
· 
OH with CH
4
. So, if there are more H2 emissions, more
· 
OH will be taken by H2 and less will be available to react with CH
4
. This will allow CH4 to remain in the atmosphere longer and exert more of a green-house effect. There are other greenhouse gases like CH
4
that can also remain longer because
· 
 OH is their main sink (e.g., hydrofluorocarbons widely used as refrigerants and solvents). The largest sink for H
2
is through consumption in the soil by microbial-mediated soil uptake.Microbial uptake accounts for ~80% of all H
2
that is taken out of our troposphere. Unfortu-
Understanding the Earth’s Hydrogen Sink 
!
MIT
Rao 3

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