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Backyards May Play Role in Climate Change

Researchers Ellen Schmitt, left, with the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Jen Jenkins, from the University of Vermont, are measuring how much carbon dioxide backyard grass takes from the air as it grows.
Richard Harris, NPR
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Researchers Ellen Schmitt, left, with the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Jen Jenkins, from the University of Vermont, are measuring how much carbon dioxide backyard grass takes from the air as it grows.
Dogs are presenting a challenge to Schmitt's and Jenkins' work. Dog waste fertilizes grass, making it grow faster. If the researchers only study yards with pets, their results might not accurately reflect what's happening in these ecosystems.
Richard Harris, NPR /
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Dogs are presenting a challenge to Schmitt's and Jenkins' work. Dog waste fertilizes grass, making it grow faster. If the researchers only study yards with pets, their results might not accurately reflect what's happening in these ecosystems.

Each year, American tailpipes and smokestacks spew more than 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. About half of that stays in the air, where it contributes to global warming. The rest is soaked up by oceans, plants and soil. Scientists studying neighborhoods in Baltimore are now trying to figure out whether backyards are also helping absorb some of this gas, and by so doing, slowing the pace of climate change.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.