Dirty pool: Soil's large carbon stores could be freed by increased CO2, plant growth

Dirty pool: Soil's large carbon stores could be freed by increased CO2, plant growth
Researchers based at Princeton University report that an increase in human-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could initiate a chain reaction between plants and microorganisms that would unsettle one of the largest carbon reservoirs on the planet -- soil. The researchers developed the first computer model to show at a global scale the complex interaction between carbon, plants and soil. The model projected changes (above) in global soil carbon as a result of root-soil interactions, with blue indicating a greater loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere. Credit: Benjamin Sulman, Princeton Environmental Institute

An increase in human-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could initiate a chain reaction between plants and microorganisms that would unsettle one of the largest carbon reservoirs on the planet—soil.

Researchers based at Princeton University report in the journal Nature Climate Change that the in soil—which contains twice the amount of carbon in all plants and Earth's atmosphere combined—could become increasingly volatile as people add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, largely because of increased . The researchers developed the first computer model to show at a global scale the complex interaction between carbon, plants and soil, which includes numerous bacteria, fungi, minerals and carbon compounds that respond in complex ways to temperature, moisture and the carbon that plants contribute to soil.

Although a greenhouse gas and pollutant, carbon dioxide also supports plant growth. As trees and other vegetation flourish in a carbon dioxide-rich future, their roots could stimulate microbial activity in soil that in turn accelerates the decomposition of and its release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the researchers found.

This effect counters current key projections regarding Earth's future , particularly that greater plant growth could offset as flora take up more of the gas, said first author Benjamin Sulman, who conducted the modeling work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Princeton Environmental Institute.

"You should not count on getting more carbon storage in the soil just because tree growth is increasing," said Sulman, who is now a at Indiana University.

On the other hand, initiated by root growth could lock carbon onto mineral particles and protect it from decomposition, which would increase long-term storage of carbon in soils, the researchers report.

Whether carbon emissions from soil rise or fall, the researchers' model depicts an intricate soil-carbon system that contrasts starkly with existing models that portray soil as a simple carbon repository, Sulman said. An oversimplified perception of the soil carbon cycle has left scientists with a glaring uncertainty as to whether soil would help mitigate future levels—or make them worse, Sulman said.

"The goal was to take that very simple model and add some of the most important missing processes," Sulman said. "The main interactions between roots and soil are important and shouldn't be ignored. Root growth and activity are such important drivers of what goes on in the soil, and knowing what the roots are doing could be an important part of understanding what the soil will be doing."

The researchers' soil-carbon cycle model has been integrated into the global land model used for climate simulations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) located on Princeton's Forrestal Campus.


Explore further

New model includes critical plant-soil interaction processes in climate assessments

More information: Benjamin N. Sulman, Richard P. Phillips, A. Christopher Oishi, Elena Shevliakova, and Stephen W. Pacala. 2014. Microbe-driven turnover offsets mineral-mediated storage of soil carbon under elevated CO2. Nature Climate Change. Article published in December 2014 print edition. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2436
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: Dirty pool: Soil's large carbon stores could be freed by increased CO2, plant growth (2014, December 23) retrieved 22 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-12-dirty-pool-soil-large-carbon.html
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Dec 23, 2014
This is scary!!!! I think that we should be proactive here and clear cut all of the Amazon and the Pacific Northwest just in case. House plants should be banned and their soils sequestered in old oil wells.

Dec 23, 2014
Take a model, add 20 more dials, set all the dials to 11, publish in Nature. Repeat.

Dec 23, 2014
"As trees and other vegetation flourish in a carbon dioxide-rich future, their roots could stimulate microbial activity in soil that in turn accelerates the decomposition of soil carbon and its release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the researchers found."

"On the other hand, microbial activity initiated by root growth could lock carbon onto mineral particles and protect it from decomposition, which would increase long-term storage of carbon in soils, the researchers report."

So, basically, anything could happen. And because "they" really have no clue according to this report: "The researchers' soil-carbon cycle model has been integrated into the global land model used for climate simulations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL)."

Anyone else not satisfied with this report or how this lack of useful data is being abused?

Dec 23, 2014
So, all of those trees that Al Gore has planted as a carbon offset for his $20,000 per month electric bills are making the problem worse. Any person who really cares about the planet would drive up to his mansion and remove the fuse box.

Dec 23, 2014
I was just thinking of the impact of this research. I could increase the GPD of the US by hundreds of billions of dollars. Do you realize how many environmental impact statements will have to be rewritten??????

Dec 23, 2014
Please replace I could with It could. Just a little typo there. P Org should allow more than 3 mins for editing a comment.

Dec 23, 2014
Scientist's glaring uncertainty lay in accounting total ecological services rendered by increases of Net Primary Productivity. Forest VOC & soil Fungal potassium emissions role in Aerosol formation, literaly Life calling to the Rain.[1]
Also the new understanding of Pyrolitic carbons' role in total SOC, (Soil Organic Content), and Cation Exchange Capacity,(CEC), and thus fertility & Humus production. [2]

Once this more comprehensive knowledge about soils & Hydrological cooling is fed into the climate models Biology will show it can do the job of stabilizing the climate.

[1]
Salt Seeds Clouds in the Amazon Rainforest
http://newscenter...erosols/

Dec 23, 2014
[2]
Demonstration, Using quantitative 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy measurements, concluding that both Terra Preta Soils and Midwest dark soils contain 40% to 50%+ of their organic carbon (SOC) as pyrolytic carbon char, that this pyrolytic carbon can account for all CEC

Abundant and Stable Char Residues in Soils: Implications for Soil Fertility and Carbon Sequestration
J.-D. Mao, R. L. Johnson, J. Lehmann, D. C. Olk, E. G. Neves, M. L. Thompson and K. Schmidt-Rohr
Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/es301107c
Publication Date (Web): August 20, 2012
Copyright © 2012, American Chemical Society
http://pubs.acs.o...s301107c

Dec 23, 2014
"So, all of those trees that Al Gore has planted as a carbon offset for his $20,000 per month electric bills are making the problem worse."
------------------------------------------

No, the article states increasing CO2 levels can increase CO2 from the Earth due to other factors.

Perhaps your politics has put you in a corner?

Dec 23, 2014
I suggest a good reading comprehension course Gkam.

"Researchers based at Princeton University report in the journal Nature Climate Change that the carbon in soil—which contains twice the amount of carbon in all plants and Earth's atmosphere combined—could become increasingly volatile as people add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, largely because of increased plant growth."

Dec 24, 2014
The historical examples of Afforestation cooling the climate by the politicly -Incorrect method of eliminating farmers; Genghis Khan's 700 MtC & the Colombian Exchange's 5 GtC of Forest growth post 1491. A 5 GtC of cooling adding to the European suffering during The Little Ice Age.

If 100 GtC of afforestation did not cool the planet, Dr. Jim Hansen would not proscribe it for his grand children.

The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing
http://www.tandfo...1zRY4zHg

Dec 24, 2014
One thing that almost all of these peer reviewed papers have in common is that they all feature positive feedback loops leading to an apocalyptic end. Obviously that is the key to funding. No one wants to pay for a paper that proves the earth is a self regulating system.

Dec 24, 2014
166 is right: None of this is really happening, . . AGW, Fukushima, Chernobyl, the Bush Wars, Torture, the Great Republican Economic Meltdown, the Bush Police State, . . all figments of liberal imaginations.

We confess.

Dec 24, 2014
Gkam if you think that the Repubicans "Own" our countries economic meltdown all by themselves then you are incapable of logical thinking and I am sure that this shortcoming also applies to you ability to understand science.

Dec 24, 2014
I guess the Clinton Expansion and the Bush Depression were just my imagination.

Where is the Dow today? What was it after the disasters of Bush? Flown lately? Remember when we were NOT suspects in our own country? it was immediately before Bush.

But the topic is Climate Change brought to us by greed and Big Money.

Dec 24, 2014
Gkam I could go on for ages about the FED buying stocks and bonds to prop up the markets but I know that it would not matter to you. The same goes for the increase in the national debt over the past 6 years.

It is these very same issues that proves to me that you are not a critical thinker but just political drone of the far left.

Dec 24, 2014
You dodged my questions. Answer the ones regarding the Dow.

Dec 24, 2014
"You dodged my questions. Answer the ones regarding the Dow."

Again Gkam, you have reading comprehension issues. What part of "Gkam I could go on for ages about the FED buying stocks and bonds to prop up the markets but I know that it would not matter to you." did you not understand?

Dec 24, 2014
Gkam I could go on for ages about the FED buying stocks and bonds to prop up the markets but I know that it would not matter to you. The same goes for the increase in the national debt over the past 6 years.

It is these very same issues that proves to me that you are not a critical thinker but just political drone of the far left.


Though the Fed can leagally buy stocks they have only been buying bonds and have backed off of that.

Dec 24, 2014
166 wants us to think the Fed caused the Great Republican Economic Meltdown (wherein we lost 40% of the value of America), and not the crooked and kill-crazy Republicans with their self-righteous mass killings of Muslim civilians who had done nothing to us.

Dec 25, 2014
"Although a greenhouse gas and pollutant, carbon dioxide also ..."
This statement tells it all. It's almost laughable.

Dec 25, 2014
"Although a greenhouse gas and pollutant, carbon dioxide also ..."
This statement tells it all. It's almost laughable.
@freeiam

how so?

Dec 26, 2014
One thing that almost all of these peer reviewed papers have in common is that they all feature positive feedback loops leading to an apocalyptic end. Obviously that is the key to funding.


Actually, any credible scientist who could demonstrate that pumping vast quantities of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere is possible without causing a greenhouse effect can get all the funding they could ever want from oil companies that currently believe climate change is real and is a complication of their business they would be happy to be without.

I am all for scientific skepticism on any topic including the climate, but climate change attracts unscientific trolls like flies. They are not even clever about it as they trot out exactly the same arguments non-scientific deniers make in other fields.

Dec 26, 2014
I guess my citations go unread.
2/3 of the excess CO2 we put there before the industrial revolution. From The Ag revolution burning forest & breaking ground. We need to return that carbon back to the soil.
Both to stabilize the climate and feed our faces.

How?.. Best Ag practices, Holistic Grazing and thermal conversion technologies can integrate and optimize the recycling of valuable nutrients while providing energy and building soil carbon, I believe this presentation brings together both sides of climate beliefs.
A reconciling of both Gods' and mans' controlling hands.

Agricultural Geo - Engineering; Past, Present & Future
Across scientific disciplines carbons are finding new utility to solve our most vexing problems

2014 SSSA Presentation;
Agricultural Geo-Engineering; Past, Present & Future.
https://www.soils...nght.pdf


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