To reach its goals, iLEAPS addresses a wide ranging set of more detailed scientific issues. Some highlights and examples are included here:

1.a. Quantify CO2, N2O and Methane (greenhouse gases) emissions from agricultural and forestry systems under changing conditions such as climate change including extremes, changing land use management (fertiliser, irrigation, drainage, tillage, grazing) and atmospheric composition (O3 and CO2)

  • Turbulent flux data of CO2, N2O and methane from a range of land cover types is crucial in developing and evaluating models and satellite-derived global and regional products.
  • Deforestation and drainage of tropical peatlands and temperate-zone peatlands for growing food and fuel is being studied to quantify the impact of the land-use practice on greenhouse gases.
  • Observations of greenhouse gases under different land-use practises (dairy, energy crops, forest, tillage, drainage) and in different manipulation experiments (warming, grazing, droughting) to understand the processes that affect the greenhouse gas budgets.

1.b. Quantify CO2, N2O, black carbon and methane sources and sinks from natural ecosystems such as wetlands and fire under changing conditions such as climate change including extremes and changing atmospheric composition

  • iLEAPS worked with the European Space Agency to commission research on the use of satellite data to quantify fire and wetland emissions of greenhouse gases.

2.a Understand and quantify the impact of climate and environmental change (including extremes) on the resilience of agricultural and natural ecosystems for

  1. Most fragile ecosystems (extreme environments)
  2. Most important (agriculture and forestry)
  • As the climate warms, the growing season lengthens in the Arctic regions which has an impact on the vegetation that grows there – more woody trees, less tundra. It is uncertain what the impact will be on the wetland extent. Changes in the permafrost have two opposing effects on the water table – in some areas the water drains away and in others, it ponds up.
  • The impact on dry regions is most pronounced in the semi-arid regions of south America and southern Europe.
  • Acclimation of vegetation to long term temperature changes is one of the main uncertainties in climate models.

2.b Understand and quantify the impact of air chemistry (CO2 and O3) changes on food and fuel production and water resources through changes in vegetation productivity and evapotranspiration

  • Large scale, long term experiments aimed at determining the impact of changes in CO2 on carbon and water budgets of forests are used to understand this feedback in the land-atmosphere system.
  • The impact of increased CO2 on water use efficiency is one of the biggest uncertainties in understanding the future water and food resources.

2.c How is water security affected by changing clouds and precipitation due to changing aerosol concentration and chemistry.

  • It has been demonstrated that the presence of particles in the atmosphere has a profound effect on the nature of the precipitation.

3.a Understand and quantify the role of land use management (fertiliser, fire, crop choice) on air quality (VOCs, pollen) and rural health.

  • The impact of burning of stubble can have an impact on the air quality in cities. Studies in China and India have shown that altering the timing of the burning can improve the air quality in the cities of the region.

3.b How urbanisation and greening of the urban environment (trees, more people, cars) affects the urban atmosphere, which affects human health and wellbeing.

  • While trees in cities can positively affect the physical environment (keeping it cool in summer for instance), different trees emit different types of VOCs, some of which can negatively affect the urban health. Research on this is at the forefront of iLEAPS science.

iLEAPS fosters science communication on these key issues through Initiatives and Projects.