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

Aug 01, 2013

Scientists from UC Irvine and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have developed a new computer model to measure global warming's effect on soil worldwide that accounts for how bacteria and fungi in soil control carbon.

They found that soil outcomes based on their microbial model were more reliable than those forecast by traditional models. Study results appear online in Nature Climate Change.

While standard models project modest carbon losses with , the microbial models generate two novel scenarios: One is that soil around the world will accumulate carbon if microbial growth declines with higher temperatures. The second assumes that microbial growth increases with global warming, resulting in large soil carbon losses, meaning much more carbon will be released into the atmosphere.

"The microbial soil model is extremely important to understanding the balance of carbon in the soil versus the atmosphere and how carbon mass in soil is affected by these bacteria and fungi," said the study's senior author, Steven Allison, an associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and Earth system science at UC Irvine. "Our hope is that this new soil model will be applied to the global Earth system models to better predict overall ."

The researchers also discovered that in cases of increased carbon input to soil (such as carbon dioxide or nutrient fertilization), microbes actually released the added carbon to the atmosphere, while traditional models indicate storage of the additional carbon. This, they said, is further evidence that the Earth system models should incorporate microbial impact on soil to more accurately project climate change ramifications.

"In our microbial model, we directly simulate how the activity of organisms like bacteria and control the storage and losses of soil carbon," said Will Wieder, a postdoctoral scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "Now that we can more accurately measure what happens to soil as temperatures increase, we hope to study the potential effects of fluctuations within a changing environment."

Explore further: Beijing's focus on coal lost in haze of smog

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers find microbes accelerate soil carbon loss

Nov 27, 2012

(Phys.org)—New research from scientists at the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University suggests that the loss of carbon from soils in response to climate change could be accelerated by unexpected ...

ORNL researchers improve soil carbon cycling models

Aug 16, 2012

A new carbon cycling model developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory better accounts for the carbon dioxide-releasing activity of microbes in the ground, improving scientists' understanding ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Beijing's focus on coal lost in haze of smog

2 hours ago

The soaring, grimy chimneys of the coal-fired power station have belched the last of their choking fumes into Beijing's air, authorities say—but experts doubt the plan will ease the capital's smog.

Stopping the leaks

19 hours ago

When a big old cast-iron water main blows, it certainly makes for a spectacular media event.

Alpine lifelines on the brink

20 hours ago

Only one in ten Alpine rivers are healthy enough to maintain water supply and to cope with climate impacts according to a report by WWF. The publication is the first-ever comprehensive study on the condition ...

User comments : 0