Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rethinking connection between soil as a carbon reservoir and global warming

Date:
October 5, 2011
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
The soil plays a key role in the ecosystem, economy and global carbon cycle. After the oceans, the humus is the largest carbon reservoir. If humus decreases, additional CO2 gets into the atmosphere. Researchers have now discovered that the soil environment determines humus depletion, which means the question as to how soils respond to global climate change needs to be readdressed.

Soils store three times as much carbon as plants and the atmosphere. Soil organic matter such as humus plays a key role in the global carbon cycle as it stores huge amounts of carbon and thus counters global warming. Consequently, the Kyoto Protocol permits the signatory countries to count soils and forests against greenhouse gas emissions as so-called carbon sinks. Exactly why some soil organic matter remains stable for thousands of years while other soil organic matter degrades quickly and releases carbon, however, is largely unknown. The explanatory models used thus far assume that the degradation rate depends on the molecular structures of the soil organic matter.

Related Articles


An international team of 14 researchers headed by Michael Schmidt, a professor of soil science and biogeography at the University of Zurich, has now revealed that numerous other factors affect the degradation rate of soil organic matter in an article published in Nature.

Soil environment determines degradation rate of humus

"The degradation speed isn't determined by the molecular structure of the dead plant debris, but by the soil environment in which the degradation takes place," says Schmidt, summing up the new results. For instance, the physical isolation of the molecules, whether the molecules in the soil are protected by mineral or physical structures and soil moisture influence the degradation rate of soil organic matter. Furthermore, the researchers are able to show that, contrary to the scientific consensus, there is no humic matter in the soil and this should therefore not be used for models.

New experiments and models needed

As Professor Schmidt explains, the findings need to be used for new experiments and models. In doing so, it is not only the first few centimeters of the soil that should be examined, as has been the case up to now, but rather the full top two to three meters. In their article, the researchers make various suggestions as to how the models for forecasting the response of soils to changes in the climate, vegetation and land use might be improved.

Moreover, the new results cast a critical light on bioengineering experiments with plants containing high amounts of lignin or plant charcoal (biochar), with which more carbon is supposed to be stored in the soil in the long run.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael W. I. Schmidt, Margaret S. Torn, Samuel Abiven, Thorsten Dittmar, Georg Guggenberger, Ivan A. Janssens, Markus Kleber, Ingrid K๖gel-Knabner, Johannes Lehmann, David A. C. Manning, Paolo Nannipieri, Daniel P. Rasse, Steve Weiner, Susan E. Trumbore. Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property. Nature, 2011; 478 (7367): 49 DOI: 10.1038/nature10386

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Rethinking connection between soil as a carbon reservoir and global warming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131659.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2011, October 5). Rethinking connection between soil as a carbon reservoir and global warming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131659.htm
University of Zurich. "Rethinking connection between soil as a carbon reservoir and global warming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131659.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) — A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) — Aerial video shows the path lava has carved across a portion of Hawaii's big island, threatening homes in the town of Pahoa. Officials say the flow was just over 230 yards from a roadway Thursday morning. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) — The lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii was 225 yards from Pahoa Village Road on Wednesday night. The lava is slowing down but still approaching the village. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

AFP (Oct. 29, 2014) — At the foot of the rugged Carpathian mountains near the Polish-Ukrainian border, ranchers and scientists are trying to protect the Carpathian pony, known as the Hucul in Polish. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
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:

More Coverage


How Soil Carbon Responds to Climate Change: Scientists Work to Improve Predictions

Oct. 5, 2011 — Soils store more carbon than the atmosphere and living plants. But scientists don't know why some organic compounds persist for centuries or even thousands of years in soils, while others ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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