Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon stored in world's soils more vulnerable to climate change than expected

Date:
September 3, 2014
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
The response of soil microbial communities to changes in temperature increases the potential for more carbon dioxide to be released from the world's soils as global temperatures rise, scientists have revealed.

The findings suggest that warming will increase the activity of soil microbes to a greater extent than was previously expected, which could have implications for future rates of climate change.
Credit: Kristiina Karhu

The response of soil microbial communities to changes in temperature increases the potential for more carbon dioxide to be released from the world's soils as global temperatures rise, scientists have revealed.

The potential for global warming to stimulate decomposition rates in soils, and thus release large quantities of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, has long been considered to be one of the potentially most important positive feedbacks to climate change. However, the results from more recent studies have suggested that responses within microbial communities could greatly reduce, or even eliminate, the potential for soil carbon losses under global warming.

This key idea was tested using soils collected from a thermal gradient from the Arctic to the Amazon rainforest. The results, published in Nature, show that, contrary to expectations, microbial community responses resulted in an overall increase, rather than a decrease, in the effects of temperature on rates of carbon dioxide release from soils.

Dr Kristiina Karhu of the University of Helsinki, and lead author of the paper, said: "Because soils store more than twice as much carbon than the atmosphere, changes in rates of decomposition and carbon dioxide release from soil could be very important. Our findings suggest that warming will increase the activity of soil microbes to a greater extent than was previously expected, which could have implications for future rates of climate change."

Responses were not found to be equal in all soils, and differed between geographical regions and ecosystem types. Managed agricultural soils stood out, being the only soils in which microbial community responses reduced the effects of a temperature change on rates of carbon dioxide release. On the other hand, the greatest stimulation was observed in the soils with the greatest carbon content and from boreal and arctic ecosystems, which are warming most rapidly. This indicates that the observed responses could increase the vulnerability of some of the world's most important soil carbon stocks to climate change.

Dr Iain Hartley, of the University of Exeter's College of Life and Environmental Sciences, added: "It is only relatively recently that we have recognised how important it is to understand soil microbial community responses to changes in temperature. Big advances have been made in recent years, and there are now models that simulate key microbial processes. We have a great opportunity to really advance this subject, and improve predictions of rates of carbon dioxide release from soils under global warming, but there is still a huge amount that we need to understand better."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Kristiina Karhu, Marc D. Auffret, Jennifer A. J. Dungait, David W. Hopkins, James I. Prosser, Brajesh K. Singh, Jens-Arne Subke, Philip A. Wookey, Göran I. Ågren, Maria-Teresa Sebastià, Fabrice Gouriveau, Göran Bergkvist, Patrick Meir, Andrew T. Nottingham, Norma Salinas, Iain P. Hartley. Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response. Nature, 2014; 513 (7516): 81 DOI: 10.1038/nature13604

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Carbon stored in world's soils more vulnerable to climate change than expected." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903133313.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2014, September 3). Carbon stored in world's soils more vulnerable to climate change than expected. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903133313.htm
University of Exeter. "Carbon stored in world's soils more vulnerable to climate change than expected." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903133313.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. 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