Florida scientists are working on a new way to identify greenhouse gas-emitting hot spots in the Everglades. The U.S. Department of Energy has just funded scientists from Florida Atlantic University. They are developing a new prototype of ground-penetrating radar that they’ll mount on an unoccupied aircraft.
“Peat soils are large natural producers of biogenic greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide that accumulate in the soil matrix to subsequently be released into the atmosphere,” said principal investigator Dr. Xavier Comas. “Although there have been remarkable advances made in predicting these carbon fluxes at a variety of spatial and temporal scales in peat soils in the last few decades, there are still many uncertainties about the spatial distribution of hot spots for biogenic gas accumulation and hot moments for the rapid release of biogenic gases, which this drone-GPR prototype may help us identify more efficiently.”
Florida Atlantic University and the U.S. Geological Survey will team up on the two-year project. The Department of Energy’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, an investigator from the University of Exeter and a facility at Pacific Northwest Laboratory, will round out the multidisciplinary team. Despite this massive collection of brainpower, the project only published a budget of $111,655.
Because it’s hard to get clear images in Florida’s humid, swampy subtropical wetlands, scientists know little about atmospheric exchange of greenhouse gases in this environment. Their working theory is that collecting airborne data sets will yield more comprehensive data (and be less invasive) than tramping into the forested wetlands to take ground-based measurements.
“We anticipate that an airborne GPR system could be used successfully to identify contrasts in relative dielectric permittivity associated with variable biogenic gas content within the soil,” Dr. Comas said. “As such, we think that the physical structure of the organic soil primarily dictates the distribution of hot spots and enables prediction of hot moments for gas release triggered by changes in certain environmental factors such as atmospheric pressure or water table elevation.”
If you followed all that, you might want to hurry up and apply to Florida Atlantic University. One lucky graduate and one undergraduate student will be trained in the project.
Lead image via Pexels