Deep soils store up to five times more carbon than first thought, study finds

Jul 04, 2013
Soil represents one of the world’s largest carbon stocks. Credit: J.Kelley/SoilScience.info

Deep soils store up to five times more carbon than is commonly reported, a new study by Murdoch University and Cranfield University in the UK has found.

Soil locks in by storing , making it a crucial player in the fight against global warming. Greenhouse gases are released when soils are exposed to air by farming, peat drainage and deforestation.

Current estimates of soil are based largely on measurements to depths of 30 cm. This approach has evolved in North America and Europe, where soil is generally more shallow.

However, many have roots extending many metres deep, suggesting there is also carbon stored at such depth and inspiring researchers to explore the storage potential of deeper soils in older landscapes such as the Amazon or Australia. Researchers in the Amazon had previously sampled soils to 8 m.

The researchers took soil measurements from samples taken to almost 40 metres deep at a range of sites in south-western Australia.

They found that small amounts of carbon were present throughout the soils all the way to the bedrock, and that deep soils store up to five times more carbon than is normally reported.

"This finding may have major implications for estimates of global and modelling of the potential global and land-use change on ," the researchers said in their paper, which was published in the journal Plant and Soil.

Lead researcher Professor Richard Harper, an expert in and sustainability at Murdoch University said the findings extend our concept of the amounts and potential of carbon stored in soils.

"This carbon has been previously overlooked, and this opens up several lines of inquiry – for example, what happens to this carbon with land use change such as deforestation and ?" Professor Harper said.

"There is likely more carbon stored in the world's soils than previously considered. What will happen to this carbon – that is, will it be released as a result of either land-use change or climate change – is unknown. This is what we are working on now," he said.

Landmark study

Professor of Horticulture and Viticulture at the University of Melbourne, Snow Barlow, said the study highlights the significant impact of land use change on cycles.

"This paper is a timely reminder of the impacts of land use change, as this carbon has clearly originated in the earlier forested era of these landscapes," said Professor Barlow, adding that Australia's position on the UN Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement was strongly based on the significance of land use change through decreasing land clearing.

"It is also a strong reminder of how much carbon is actually stored in soils, particularly deep soils, and that even Australia has deep soils that contain significant carbon at moderate rainfalls."

Dr Robert Edis, a soil scientist from the University of Melbourne said the study was "robustly and rigorously executed and then elegantly interpreted", but added that the importance of deep soil carbon for climate change, "hinges on how stable the carbon is, and will determine if the study is just interesting or pivotal."

Dr Edis said the study was a "landmark quantification of a pool of carbon only qualitatively suspected."

Andrea Koch, project manager of the Soil Carbon Initiative at the University of Sydney said the study highlights how much we have underestimated the potential for soils to act as a critical sink for carbon.

"As a society, we are pretty focused on what we can get from the top 30cm of the soil profile, and the mineral and energy resources that are deep below the surface, but the soil in between the deeper soil is a frontier that is yet to be understood. Managing and maintaining soil carbon is fundamental to food and water security, biodiversity and energy security, as well as climate regulation, so if we can work out ways to manage soil carbon at depth that can only be a good thing," Ms Koch said.

"Finding ways to manage and account for at depth will not only require new management practices and technologies, it will also need to be met with public policies that support and encourage these efforts," she said.

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User comments : 27

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antigoracle
1.8 / 5 (25) Jul 04, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.
Neinsense99
3.1 / 5 (19) Jul 04, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

Don't let your backers hear you say that! They probably have emotional investment in the propaganda you're spreading for them.
Grallen
3.8 / 5 (17) Jul 04, 2013
@antigoracle: Your emotional, unsupported statements are not any more valid just because you post them first and often. It only proves you're paid to do it.
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (23) Jul 04, 2013
@antigoracle: Your emotional, unsupported statements are not any more valid just because you post them first and often. It only proves you're paid to do it.

And what does your unfounded accusation prove?
It confirms the stupidity of those like you in the AGW Alarmist cult.
Neinsense99
3.1 / 5 (19) Jul 04, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.
deepsand
3.4 / 5 (22) Jul 05, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

What is truly preposterous is the amount of time and energy that you waste spewing venomous inanities and prevarications.
Neinsense99
3.4 / 5 (19) Jul 05, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

What is truly preposterous is the amount of time and energy that you waste spewing venomous inanities and prevarications.

Though he is not so easily ignorable,
He is the very model of a comment troll deplorable.
(Chorus) He is the very model of a comment troll deplorable.
ubavontuba
1.2 / 5 (18) Jul 05, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

What is truly preposterous is the amount of time and energy that you waste spewing venomous inanities and prevarications.
Hypocrite much?
deepsand
3.7 / 5 (21) Jul 05, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

What is truly preposterous is the amount of time and energy that you waste spewing venomous inanities and prevarications.
Hypocrite much?

Not my fault that you cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, between truth and lie.
ubavontuba
1.7 / 5 (18) Jul 05, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

What is truly preposterous is the amount of time and energy that you waste spewing venomous inanities and prevarications.
Hypocrite much?

Not my fault that you cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, between truth and lie.
And there you go, proving my point. Can you not contribute anything beyond venomous inanities and prevarications?

gmurphy
4.2 / 5 (15) Jul 05, 2013
@ubavontuba, expressing irritation at venomous inanities does not imply that the irritation is itself a prevarication. Most of us understand this, you'll get it eventually.
antigoracle
1.4 / 5 (20) Jul 05, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.6 / 5 (10) Jul 05, 2013
"Deep soils store up to five times more carbon than first thought, study finds"

Huh. Here we have another very significant but totally unknown factor in the AGW debate.

And I thought this stuff was all settled. Oh well Im sure this is the last. We probably know exactly what we are doing now.
deepsand
3.3 / 5 (16) Jul 06, 2013
It's truly preposterous how much time and money is wasted on this CO2 lie.

What is truly preposterous is the amount of time and energy that you waste spewing venomous inanities and prevarications.
Hypocrite much?

Not my fault that you cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, between truth and lie.
And there you go, proving my point. Can you not contribute anything beyond venomous inanities and prevarications?

Non sequitur.
deepsand
3.4 / 5 (17) Jul 06, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.
antigoracle
1.5 / 5 (17) Jul 06, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.

Then I say to you, not only do you not understand, but also lack the mental capacity to ever do so.
Keep drinking the kool-aid life long cultist.
Neinsense99
2.8 / 5 (13) Jul 06, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.

Then I say to you, not only do you not understand, but also lack the mental capacity to ever do so.
Keep drinking the kool-aid life long cultist.

In other words, "Arf arf arf!" And in case you didn't get his point the first time "Arf grrr arf arf grrr arf!"
ubavontuba
1.5 / 5 (17) Jul 06, 2013
"Deep soils store up to five times more carbon than first thought, study finds"

Huh. Here we have another very significant but totally unknown factor in the AGW debate.

And I thought this stuff was all settled. Oh well Im sure this is the last. We probably know exactly what we are doing now.
Good one. That was hilarious!

antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (18) Jul 06, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.

Then I say to you, not only do you not understand, but also lack the mental capacity to ever do so.
Keep drinking the kool-aid life long cultist.

In other words, "Arf arf arf!" And in case you didn't get his point the first time "Arf grrr arf arf grrr arf!"

Hmmm.... strong be the stupidity in this one.
Arf_Arf_Arf_Arf_Arf_Arf
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 06, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.

Then I say to you, not only do you not understand, but also lack the mental capacity to ever do so.
Keep drinking the kool-aid life long cultist.

In other words, "Arf arf arf!" And in case you didn't get his point the first time "Arf grrr arf arf grrr arf!"

Hmmm.... strong be the stupidity in this one.
Im sorry did somebody call me? Is it dinnertime or something?
deepsand
3 / 5 (14) Jul 07, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.

Then I say to you, not only do you not understand, but also lack the mental capacity to ever do so.
Keep drinking the kool-aid life long cultist.

You are like an insane woodpecker looking for a grub in a block of concrete.
deepsand
2.9 / 5 (14) Jul 07, 2013
It's time for a parable about the deplorable antigoracle.

Yes, burn the heretic.
Yet you deny, yours is not a cult.

Correct. Those who understand the facts re. AGW are not members of a cult.

Then I say to you, not only do you not understand, but also lack the mental capacity to ever do so.
Keep drinking the kool-aid life long cultist.

In other words, "Arf arf arf!" And in case you didn't get his point the first time "Arf grrr arf arf grrr arf!"

Hmmm.... strong be the stupidity in this one.

You are like an insane woodpecker looking for a grub in a block of concrete.
freeiam
1.8 / 5 (16) Jul 07, 2013
Couldn't be true. IPPC was absolutely certain that they knew all about the CO2 cycle, 5 years ago.
Howhot
3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 08, 2013
Couldn't be true. IPPC was absolutely certain that they knew all about the CO2 cycle, 5 years ago.

They did. The only difference between then an now is that the computer models are not as course grained as they where back then. Fundamentally as computer systems have gotten faster, the detail of the computer models has improved likewise.

You can add in better data collection methods, satellite observations, ... etc and you can see why the arguments about AGW favor even more drastic actions by the IPCC. (I'm guessing that is who you are referring to, the International Panel on Climate Change? Not IPPC)
freeiam
1 / 5 (12) Jul 09, 2013
Couldn't be true. IPPC was absolutely certain that they knew all about the CO2 cycle, 5 years ago.

They did. The only difference between then an now is that the computer models are not as course grained as they where back then. Fundamentally as computer systems have gotten faster, the detail of the computer models has improved likewise.

You can add in better data collection methods, satellite observations, ... etc and you can see why the arguments about AGW favor even more drastic actions by the IPCC. (I'm guessing that is who you are referring to, the International Panel on Climate Change? Not IPPC)


No they didn't. Vast amounts of CO2 were not accounted for because they didn't know that.
They know it now.
And yes I mean IPCC, I guess I was thinking about the inter planetary police force.
Silly me.
deepsand
3.5 / 5 (11) Jul 09, 2013
No they didn't. Vast amounts of CO2 were not accounted for because they didn't know that.
They know it now.
And yes I mean IPCC, I guess I was thinking about the inter planetary police force.
Silly me.

Silly you indeed, because none of this changes the fact that increased atmospheric CO2 CANNOT NOT increase radiative forcing, and that continued deforestation, clear cut lumbering, and modern farming methods are releasing much of the carbon sequestered in the soil.
RCH
5 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2013
Why Do People Believe Stupid Stuff, Even When They're Confronted With the Truth?

The "backfire effect" helps explain how strange, ancient and kooky beliefs resist science, reason and reportage.
June 26, 2011 |

The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

"What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online. When you start to pull out facts and figures, hyperlinks and quotes, you are actually making the opponent feel as though they are even more sure of their position than before you started the debate. As they match your fervor, the same thing happens in your skull. The backfire effect pushes both of you deeper into your original beliefs."

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