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Volume 572 Issue 7770, 22 August 2019

Burning issue

The cover shows a wildfire in Alberta, Canada, in 2016. Naturally occurring fires in boreal forests emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, largely through the combustion of organic soil. But during each fire, a proportion of the soil escapes combustion and over subsequent fires this forms a store of ‘legacy’ carbon locked up in the soil. This helps to make such forests a net carbon sink, holding some 30–40% of terrestrial carbon. In this issue, Xanthe Walker, Michelle Mack and their colleagues reveal that loss of legacy carbon occurred in dry, younger forests (60 years or less) following wildfires in the Northwest Territories in Canada. The researchers’ findings suggest that with boreal wildfires increasing in size, frequency and intensity, young forests may become a net source of carbon to the atmosphere over consecutive fires and may switch the boreal carbon balance from a sink to a source.

Cover image: Darryl Dyck/Bloomberg/Getty

This Week

News in Focus

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    News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Carbon has been stored in the organic layers of boreal-forest soils for hundreds of years. An analysis reveals that this carbon might be released into the atmosphere as global warming increases the frequency of wildfires.

    • Cornelia Rumpel
  • News & Views |

    A type of immune cell called a CD8 T cell, which usually kills disease-causing agents, has been found instead to suppress self-reactive immune cells, thereby offering protection against an autoimmune disease in mice.

    • Hye-Jung Kim
    •  & Harvey Cantor
  • News & Views |

    The movement of small droplets on a substrate is governed by surface-tension forces. A technique that can tune the surface tension of robust oxide substrates for droplet manipulation could open up many applications.

    • Frieder Mugele
  • News & Views |

    An analysis of gut formation in the fruit fly has revealed how gene expression and mechanical forces are coordinated in adjacent populations of cells. The findings highlight the tissue-level control of embryonic development.

    • Kristen A. Panfilio
  • News & Views |

    How Nature reported early experiments on magnetic data storage in 1969, and an alternative stuffing for lifebelts in 1919.

  • Reviews

  • Review Article |

    Abiotic processes can mimic or alter the biogenic traces of early life but advances in micro- and nanoscale analyses provide evidence that—with geological contextualization—improves our ability to address this issue.

    • Emmanuelle J. Javaux
  • Articles

  • Article |

    Tissue shape changes in the posterior endoderm of the early Drosophila embryo are driven by actomyosin contractions emerging from a transcriptional induction followed by a mechanically-driven propagation of RhoI–myosin II activation.

    • Anaïs Bailles
    • , Claudio Collinet
    •  & Thomas Lecuit
  • Article |

    Activated clonally expanded CD4+ T cells display specificity to the myelin peptide MOG, whereas clonally expanded CD8+ T cells depend on T cell receptor recognition of unrelated surrogate peptides and have a regulatory function.

    • Naresha Saligrama
    • , Fan Zhao
    •  & Mark M. Davis
  • Article |

    The cryo-EM structure of the zebrafish cation–chloride cotransporter NKCC1 reveals the domain organization, ion translocation pathway, ion-binding sites and key residues for binding activity, providing insights into the activity of this family of transporter proteins with key roles in physiology.

    • Thomas A. Chew
    • , Benjamin J. Orlando
    •  & Liang Feng
  • Letters

  • Letter |

    Extraordinarily thick organic light-emitting diodes can be fabricated using hybrid organic–inorganic perovskites as the transport layers, thus relaxing fabrication constraints without affecting their efficiency, voltage requirement or durability.

    • Toshinori Matsushima
    • , Fatima Bencheikh
    •  & Chihaya Adachi
  • Letter |

    Titration gas chromatography is developed as an analytical method of distinguishing between lithium metal and lithium compounds within a cycled battery and assessing the amount of unreacted metallic lithium available.

    • Chengcheng Fang
    • , Jinxing Li
    •  & Ying Shirley Meng
  • Letter |

    A stretchable polymer pump that uses electric fields to accelerate ions in dielectric liquids can generate flow even when bent into different conformations, offering applications in soft robotics.

    • Vito Cacucciolo
    • , Jun Shintake
    •  & Herbert Shea
  • Letter |

    Soil radiocarbon dating reveals that combusted ‘legacy carbon’—soil carbon that escaped burning during previous fires—could shift the carbon balance of boreal ecosystems, resulting in a positive climate feedback.

    • Xanthe J. Walker
    • , Jennifer L. Baltzer
    •  & Michelle C. Mack
  • Letter |

    A framework that includes inequality shows that extreme inequality prevents cooperation, but overall welfare is maximized when endowments and productivities are aligned such that more-productive individuals receive higher endowments.

    • Oliver P. Hauser
    • , Christian Hilbe
    •  & Martin A. Nowak
  • Letter |

    Enzymatic cleavage within ubiquitin molecules followed by quantitative mass-spectrometry simplifies complex ubiquitin chains and enables mapping of polyubiquitin architectures.

    • Kirby N. Swatek
    • , Joanne L. Usher
    •  & David Komander

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