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Relevance and human impact

Corn field in Brazil after clearing of the rainforest. Our team in the white bus is on its way to the measurement station. (Photo: Jan Muhr) The number of cattle in the Amazon more than doubled between 1992 and 2004 to 57 million head. (CIFOR, Center for National Forestry Research) (Photo: Jan Muhr)

Analyzing the numerous biogeochemical conversions involved in this global element cycles is one of the most important and most pressing scientific challenges of our times. Humanity is intervening in natural cycles on a global scale through land use and technological processes, without being able yet to foresee the long-term consequences. These interventions affect not only the climatically active trace gases in the atmosphere, but also land utilization and biodiversity.

For example, the use of fossil fuels, forest clearing and agricultural management release carbon dioxide in considerable quantities and could re-establish an atmosphere and a climate comparable to those of earlier geological ages. Since the beginning of industrialization, alterations in the concentration of the trace gases due to anthropogenic interference have been superimposed on the natural variations of these gases that occur on longer time scales.

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