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Implications of cosmic rays and solar UV-radiation for Earth’s biosphere
by Dr. Faton Krasniqi


An increased atmospheric ionization by cosmic rays and solar UV radiation has significant effects on atmospheric chemistry and dynamics: it triggers electron-induced reactions that lead to formation of free radicals in the atmosphere which further participate in catalytic ozone loss cycles. Since ozone shields the Earth from harmful UV rays from the Sun, its depletion would lead to an increase of the biologically active UV radiation flux, with significant implication for human health, plants, marine ecosystems, and biogeochemical cycles. While ionization of chlorine-containing anthropogenic molecules by solar UV radiation has long been recognized as an explanation for ozone depletion in the stratosphere, the role of cosmic rays and, in particular, low-energy cosmic electrons remain largely unexplained. These electrons interact with atmospheric gases of both natural and anthropogenic origin and can affect, thereby significantly the chemistry and dynamics of the ozone layer. Therefore, there is an urgent need to combine ground-breaking observations by modern satellite technologies and ground-based in situ/remote sensing with scientific expertise in biology, chemistry, environment, and radiation protection to study how such combined radiation fields can shape our natural habitat, affect the evolution of the biosphere, and impact our health status. This presentation will introduce the recently granted European Partnership on Metrology project 21GRD02 BIOSPHERE (Metrology for Earth Biosphere: Cosmic rays, UV radiation and fragility of ozone shield) which aims to develop for the first time the necessary tools, methodologies and metrological framework needed to evaluate the mutual impact of cosmic rays and biologically active UV radiation on the Earth’s biosphere. This project will provide traceable metrological data on cosmic ray fluxes, solar UV spectra, and the total ozone column which are key to assessing the role of cosmic rays as climate drivers and aims to identify and quantify correlations between them. For the first time, fundamental data on the interaction of low-energy cosmic ray-induced electrons with relevant atmospheric gases of both natural and anthropogenic origin will be determined. These include collision cross sections for the molecular processes such as dissociative electron attachment, molecular fragmentation and ionization. The impact of combined cosmic and UV irradiation on human health will be assessed by investigating structural and functional damages inflicted by such mixed radiation fields in human primary cells such as primary skin fibroblasts, blood monocytes and brain endothelial cells. Genomic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic changes that might be responsible for cells’ radiosensitivity and possible long-term dysfunction will be assessed.


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Topic : Theme 1: Biosphere Monitoring.
Reference : T1-D11

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