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Media Advisory: DRI Scientists Use New Dome Tent to Make Landmark Discoveries at the Nevada Test Site

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 20, 2005

Reporters and Editors, please note this unique story opportunity at the Nevada Test Site:

WHO: Desert Research Institute scientists

WHAT: With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide— CO2— levels have continued to skyrocket. Since CO2 is linked to global warming, these increases are alarming. At the same time, some 40 percent of the Earth’s surface is arid or semi-arid. So what happens in the desert is important to the rest of the planet. DRI researchers want to know the impact of increasing levels of carbon dioxide on desert ecosystems and what that means for the global environment.

Using a novel, data-gathering dome tent they invented, DRI scientists measure the effects of future levels of atmospheric CO2 on the Mojave Desert ecosystem. In a dramatic discovery this year, new findings dispel the previous notion that deserts increase their uptake of carbon dioxide and help offset the increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere that is due to man's ever-increasing levels of coal, gasoline and oil combustion. In fact, researchers are finding that deserts actually reduce their carbon dioxide uptake by a remarkable 30 percent. This means in the context of dealing with global warming, we can’t rely on desert ecosystems to help diminish atmospheric CO2 levels. On the contrary, deserts may take up less CO2 from the air than they do now.

Another discovery unfolds:
Research also revealed another important misconception about desert ecosystems: deserts take up CO2 at the same rates as some grassland areas and forests.

Additional information about the FACE facility:

The FACE facility is in its eighth year of operation and is the only arid-ecosystem research facility in the world addressing the effects of elevated carbon dioxide in a natural setting. The FACE facility is designed to permit a controlled release of elevated carbon dioxide in the air around vegetation without disturbing other environmental and ecosystem conditions.

WHEN: Scientists will be taking samples using the dome at the Nevada Desert Free Air CO2 Enrichment Facility, or FACE facility on the Nevada Test Site on Wednesday, January 26. The news media are invited to attend. Scientists will be available for interviews at the site. If you are interested in covering this unique opportunity, you must call Heather or Ron to obtain the SECURITY FORM to enter the Nevada Test Site with escorts from DRI and the National Nuclear Security Administration's Nevada Site Office. The badging form must be completed and faxed to 702-295-0154 by noon on Monday, Jan. 24 to be processed in time.

WHERE: The FACE facility at the Nevada Test Site.

Schedule: a van will leave the Desert Research Institute at 755 East Flamingo Road at 8 a.m. Interested media who have submitted a badge form must be in the van to participate. Drive time to the site is 1 hour, 45 minutes. Estimated return time to DRI: 2 p.m.

DOME TENT VISUALS: The dome tent has proven to be a powerful tool in addressing the effects of global environmental change. The 14-foot dome-shaped white tents are made up of a total of 48 individual tent tubes that allow the dome to be dismantled like a camping tent and stored in two duffel bags. During sampling, the dome tent is sealed to the desert floor using a foam rubber gasket. Inside, a fan circulates air while an infrared gas analyzer mounted inside the dome takes readings of carbon dioxide and water vapor. A communication cable transmits the readings from the analyzer to an outside laptop computer.