Study questions nature's ability to 'self-correct' climate change

Aug 07, 2013

Forests have a limited capacity to soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study from Northern Arizona University.

The study, available online in the journal New Phytologist, aimed to explore how rising could alter the carbon and of ecosystems.

By performing tests on subtropical woodland plots over an 11-year period, the researchers found that ecosystem was not significantly increased by the high CO2 treatment—in contrast to expectations. While plants did contain more carbon when CO2 levels were increased, soil actually lost carbon due to microbial decomposition; both factors essentially balanced one another out.

"Nature cannot 'self-correct' entirely against climate change, and the scientific community has been both overestimating the impact of plants and underestimating the impact of soil microorganisms in how they absorb CO2 and ultimately impact global warming," said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author on the study.

"Models of land ecosystems need to be revised to represent microbial responses explicitly," Hungate said. "They're the carbon balance 'trump card,' reversing the effect of plants on total carbon storage."

According to Hungate, the tests confirmed that although soil microorganisms are microscopic, they are just as important as plants in determining by ecosystems.

In addition, the study results indicate that widely accepted carbon cycle models overestimate the role of ecosystems in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere because the models do not represent the responses of correctly.

Explore further: Team develops more accurate model of climate change's effect on soil

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

High CO2 spurs wetlands to absorb more carbon

Jul 16, 2013

(Phys.org) —Under elevated carbon dioxide levels, wetland plants can absorb up to 32 percent more carbon than they do at current levels, according to a 19-year study published in Global Change Biology from t ...

New knowledge about permafrost improving climate models

Jul 28, 2013

New research findings from the Centre for Permafrost (CENPERM) at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, document that permafrost during thawing may result in a substantial ...

Soil microbes accelerate global warming

Jul 13, 2011

More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes soil to release the potent greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, new research published in this week's edition of Nature reveals. "This feedback to our changing atmosphere means ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Water_Prophet
1.4 / 5 (11) Aug 07, 2013
And Water's face is oft hidden oft not in the disturbed balance between man and nature. Yea verily, blessed be the Water, and accursed is the carboniferous Air, yet the Water is not all-powerful nor all-forgiving, nor the CO2 all-enfeeble.
So it is true Water becomes like unto Earth, releasing Fire, and transmutes from Earth to itself to devour the Fire, yet it can only devour so much of man's folly.
Neinsense99
1.8 / 5 (10) Aug 09, 2013
And Water's face is oft hidden oft not in the disturbed balance between man and nature. Yea verily, blessed be the Water, and accursed is the carboniferous Air, yet the Water is not all-powerful nor all-forgiving, nor the CO2 all-enfeeble.
So it is true Water becomes like unto Earth, releasing Fire, and transmutes from Earth to itself to devour the Fire, yet it can only devour so much of man's folly.

Water Prophet, some of that sacred liquid must be diverted to grow whatever you're smoking ;)
jyro
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 15, 2013
Why are microbes in the soil affected by tiny CO2 changes?

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...