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The effects of ozone depletion and the burning of fossil fuels mean that plants are likely to be exposed to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and ultraviolet-B radiation, especially in polar regions.

It had been thought that the soil microbes associated with such plant communities would be strongly affected by increasing CO2, at least indirectly, but relatively insulated from the effects of UV-B radiation.

But a five-year study by David Johnson of the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, and colleagues suggests otherwise

The researchers — whose results are published in the 7 March issue of Nature — studied of a patch of subarctic heath in Swedish Lapland. They found that increases in UV-B radiation — with or without raised atmospheric CO2 — significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen that soil bacteria hold.

Reference: Nature 416, 82 (2002)

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Photo credit: NREL