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Soil carbon is lost with global warming

By Dave Armstrong - 04 Sep 2014 9:52:0 GMT
Soil carbon is lost with global warming

What we know of the variety of the world's soils is negligible. We even need research now into just how much of the vast soil carbon reserve is or is not being stored within each of the ecosystems we are so rapidly destroying. Pic is of Australian termite mounds, utilising soil carbon, and storing it! Termite image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The soil stores X4 the carbon of plants with the soil microflora releasing 60 petagrams of carbon to the atmosphere every year. A petagram is one of those gigantic orders of mass at 1012 kilograms. As temperature increases though, respiration increases at an exponential rate. Global warming would seem to be a much greater threat than we thought, with very negative results from the feedback loop of warming influencing carbon dioxide production. It is possible that the respiration could be decreased again at some stage, so soil samples from many ecosystems were collected to investigate.

Kristiina Karhu of the University of Helsinki and many environmental scientists from universities stretching from Exeter to the Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia on to the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru in Lima and The Australian National University in Canberra in Australia measured and extracted the soil samples' carbon. The samples were from both managed and natural ecosystems. Broad-leaved and conifer forests, grassland, heath and arable farms were included. You can read the paper in - Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response.

With twice as much carbon in the soil as that in the atmosphere, the transfer between these two great stores is significant for us. All soils were not found equal, with managed agricultural soils having microbial communities that reduced their carbon dioxide release on warming. The soils with the highest carbon content were those which responded to warming the most. Dangerously, arctic and boreal forest soils were also stimulated to release much more CO2. This soil is likely to be the most rapidly warmed substrate on earth, according to most predictions of climate change. The world's most important carbon stores are the most vulnerable to global warming. Australia previously occupied us here, in - Australian farmers' carbon stocks with natural farming projects suggested as alternatives to stem the terrible loss of soil fertility, and carbon, from the soils

Much more needs to be investigated, including the loss of carbon from drained wetlands, but the theme for our future in inescapable. We have to adapt to higher carbon dioxide levels, leading to even more global warming. We can't stop the rapid burning of more carbon by power stations and transport, or at least we are unwilling to even start. The hope remains with all of the renewable energies that don't involve carbon dioxide release. But all of these facts must be too complex for us to understand.

Because we blunder on regardless.