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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

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News in Focus

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  • 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.

      News & Views
  • Reviews

    • 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
      Review Article
  • Articles

  • Letters

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Amendments & Corrections

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