Soil Minerals Hang On To A Whole Lot Of Carbon

Soil Minerals Hang On To A Whole Lot Of Carbon

The minerals in soil can hold on to a significant amount of carbon pulled from the atmosphere, a new study shows. The finding could prove beneficial as the world tries to shift its carbon economy, researchers say.

“We’ve known for quite a long time that the carbon stored on minerals is the carbon that sticks around for a long time,” says Oliver Chadwick of the University of California, Santa Barbara. How much carbon the soil can take and how much it can keep depend on temperature, moisture, and other factors, he says.

“When plants photosynthesize, they draw carbon out of the atmosphere, then they die and their organic matter is incorporated in the soil,” Chadwick says. “Bacteria decompose that organic matter, releasing carbon that can either go right back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or it can get held on the surface of soil minerals.”

‘Water is dear’

Water plays a significant role in the soil’s ability to retain carbon, researchers say. Chadwick and Marc Kramer of Washington State University consulted the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and a globally representative archived data for soil profiles for this first-ever global-scale evaluation of the role soil plays in producing dissolved organic matter and storing it on minerals.

Wetter climates are more conducive to mineral formation that effectively stores carbon, therefore much of the Earth’s estimated 600 billion metric tons of soil-bound carbon is found in the wet forests and tropical zones.

Arid places, meanwhile, tend to have a “negative water balance” and can store far less organic carbon. The findings suggest that even a small, strategic change in the water balance could drive greater carbon storage, Chadwick says.

“That’s not as easy as it sounds, because water is dear.” In places where a shift in soil moisture could tip the water balance from negative to positive—like the desert—there’s not enough water to begin with. “So, it doesn’t actually make any sense to spread a lot of water out over the landscape because water is hugely valuable,” he says.

Climate change is another driver to consider. As the Earth warms, microbial activity increases and, in turn, so does the potential for carbon release back into the atmosphere at a greater rate than photosynthesis can draw it out. Increased evaporation also decreases the amount of water in the soil available to dissolve and move carbon to minerals deep below the surface.

How long will it last?

There is still a lot to investigate and several hurdles to overcome as soil scientists consider ways to tip the balance of the Earth’s soil from carbon source to carbon sink, but understanding this relatively little-known but highly significant carbon storage pathway is a start, the researchers say.

“We know less about the soils on Earth than we do about the surface of Mars,” Kramer says. “Before we can start thinking about storing carbon in the ground, we need to actually understand how it gets there and how likely it is to stick around. This finding highlights a major breakthrough in our understanding.”

Among the next steps for the scientists is to date the mineral-stored carbon in the soil to better understand how long these reactive (typically iron and aluminum) minerals can keep carbon out of the air.

“Which is really important if we’re going to put effort into trying to store carbon in the soil,” Chadwick says. “Is it going to stay there long enough to matter? If we put it in and it comes out five years later, it’s not solving our problem, and we ought to be barking up a different tree.”

The study appears in Nature Climate Change.

Source: UC Santa Barbara

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

What Is The Future Of Climate Change?
by Simon Donner
You would think with all the chatter going on about climate that we’d all have a good understanding on the elements of…
Why Marianne Williamson's Candidacy for President Is Important
Why Marianne Williamson's Candidacy for President Is Important
How do you know something exists if you never hear about it? How do you know about the truth, which is often "the other…
Would You Eat Meat Grown From Cells In A Laboratory? Here's How It Works
Would You Eat Meat Grown From Cells In A Laboratory? Here's How It Works
by Leigh Ackland
For many of us, eating a meal containing meat is a normal part of daily life. But if we dig deeper, some sobering…
Climate System “Getting Unhinged” as Massive Heat Wave Causes Record Melting of Greenland Ice Sheet
by Democracy Now!
The massive heat dome that shattered all-time temperature records across much of Europe last week has settled in over…
Why We're Heading For A Climate Catastrophe
by BBC Newsnight
Scientists say the world is completely off track.
A Climate Reckoning In The Heartland
by CBS News
"A historic flood in March 2019 left much of America's heartland under water. Partiularly hard-hit were Midwestern…
What Would Happen If Antarctica Melted?
by Put Put 1
"What Would Happen If Antarctica Melted?
Dr. Peter Wadhams: Arctic Research & the Methane Risk
by UPFSI
Peter Wadhams is back on ScientistsWarning.TV with a comprehensive analysis of the reticent approach that part of the…

LATEST ARTICLES

What Is The Future Of Climate Change?
by Simon Donner
You would think with all the chatter going on about climate that we’d all have a good understanding on the elements of…
People Of Color Don’t Get Credit For Climate Concern
People Of Color Don’t Get Credit For Climate Concern
by U. Oregon
While their contributions to the climate change movement remain largely unrecognized, people of color are just as…
New Research Shows That Antarctica's Largest Floating Ice Shelf Is Highly Sensitive To Warming Of The Ocean
New Research Shows That Antarctica's Largest Floating Ice Shelf Is Highly Sensitive To Warming Of The Ocean
by Dan Lowry
Scientists have long been concerned about the potential collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and its contribution…
It'll Be Hard, But We Can Feed The World With Plant Protein
It'll Be Hard, But We Can Feed The World With Plant Protein
by Richard Trethowan
A UN report released last week found a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions come from the food chain, particularly…
Underground Water Sources For Billions Could Take More Than A Century To Respond Fully To Climate Change
Underground Water Sources For Billions Could Take More Than A Century To Respond Fully To Climate Change
by Mark O. Cuthbert, et al
Groundwater is the biggest store of accessible freshwater in the world, providing billions of people with water for…
Why Is The Australian Energy Regulator Suing Wind Farms?
Why Is The Australian Energy Regulator Suing Wind Farms?
by Samantha Hepburn
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is suing four of the wind farms involved in the 2016 South Australian blackout -…
Groundwater Reserves In Africa May Be More Resilient To Climate Change Than First Thought
Groundwater Reserves In Africa May Be More Resilient To Climate Change Than First Thought
by Mark O. Cuthbert and Richard Taylor
Groundwater reserves in Africa are estimated to be 20 times larger than the water stored in lakes and reservoirs above…
Australia Urgently Needs Real Sustainable Agriculture Policy
Australia Urgently Needs Real Sustainable Agriculture Policy
by InnerSelf Staff
Australia has made a global commitment to “sustainable agriculture”, an endeavour seen as increasingly crucial to…