Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Soils Contain Huge Amounts Of Ancient Carbon: When Does This Carbon Enter The Atmosphere?

Date:
May 15, 2008
Source:
Macaulay Institute
Summary:
Knowing that soils are a potential climate change time-bomb is nothing new -- but now, for the first time, a group of international scientists have found a way to distinguish just how much of these ancient carbon stores are being lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This means that in the future they may be able to accurately forecast how loss of soil carbon will impact on climate change. Globally, soils contain over 300 times the amount of carbon released each year due to the burning of fossil fuels, and this carbon has until now, been safely locked up below ground.

Knowing that soils are a potential climate change time-bomb is nothing new — but now, for the first time, a group of international scientists have found a way to distinguish just how much of these ancient carbon stores are being lost to the atmosphere as CO2. This means that in the future they may be able to accurately forecast how loss of soil carbon will impact on climate change.

Project leader Professor Pete Millard of Aberdeen’s Macaulay Institute explains: “Globally, soils contain over 300 times the amount of carbon released each year due to the burning of fossil fuels, and this carbon has until now, been safely locked up below ground.

“As the planet is warming up, this carbon is being released from the soil into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but there are in fact two types of carbon —‘new’ carbon, which has recently entered the soil through vegetation, and ‘old’ carbon, which has been locked up in the soil for years.

“It is the amount of this old carbon being lost as CO2 that has the biggest climate change effect,” he added, “as it signifies the soil changing from being a carbon-store to a source of carbon — a carbon-emitter.”

Measuring the loss of carbon from soils is relatively straightforward, but determining how much is from this old carbon has up to now proved very difficult. Now this joint project between the Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen and Landcare Research, New Zealand, has developed a method to measure the release of old carbon from soils.

Their approach is based upon the measurement of very small differences in the amount of an isotope, carbon-13, which is naturally present in all carbon dioxide, including that released by soils into the atmosphere.

"We are excited because it's very relevant at the moment. We need to predict how the climate is going to change and of course that's related to the atmosphere, the vegetation and the soil," said Professor Millard.

Funded by the Scottish government and the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden fund, the researchers have been working on this for three years, and now for the first time, they have been able to differentiate how much old, historical carbon is being released from soils.

"The implications of knowing this are very important and it will enable us to determine for the first time what the consequences of changes in land use might be for climate change," said Professor Millard. "As more CO2 is released from the soil, the temperature is going to increase further — it could almost be a runway reaction.”

Also working on the project are David Whitehead, John Hunt and Margaret Barbour from Landcare Research, NZ.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Macaulay Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Macaulay Institute. "Soils Contain Huge Amounts Of Ancient Carbon: When Does This Carbon Enter The Atmosphere?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514090558.htm>.
Macaulay Institute. (2008, May 15). Soils Contain Huge Amounts Of Ancient Carbon: When Does This Carbon Enter The Atmosphere?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514090558.htm
Macaulay Institute. "Soils Contain Huge Amounts Of Ancient Carbon: When Does This Carbon Enter The Atmosphere?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514090558.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins