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-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?
by Sabine Hossenfelder
Interview with Prof Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford.
The New Normal: Climate Change Poses Challenges For Minnesota Farmers
by KMSP-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul
Spring brought a deluge of rain in southern Minnesota and it never seemed to stop.
Report: Today's Kids' Health Will Be Imperiled by Climate Change
by VOA News
An international report from researchers at 35 institutions says climate change will threaten the health and quality of…
How Supercharged Trash Gas Could Produce More Green Energy
by InnerSelf Staff
Synthetic compounds called “siloxanes” from everyday products like shampoo and motor oil are finding their way into…
300 Million Face Severe Risk of Climate-Fueled Coastal Flooding by 2050
by Democracy Now!
As a shocking new report finds that many coastal cities will be flooded by rising sea levels by 2050, Chile’s President…
Climate Warning: California Continues To Burn, Data Estimates Of Global Flooding
by MSNBC
Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist of Climate Central joins MTP Daily to discuss alarming new information about…

LATEST ARTICLES

Lessons From The Hockey Rink Could Help Ontario Tackle Climate Change
Lessons From The Hockey Rink Could Help Ontario Tackle Climate Change
by Jennifer Lynes and Dan Murray
The Auditor General of Ontario’s recent report found the province’s current climate change plan is not based on “sound…
Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species
Climate Change Threatens A Scary Number Of Plant Species
by InnerSelf Staff
Almost 40% of global land plant species are very rare, and these species are most at risk for extinction as the climate…
How Drought Is Affecting Water Supply In Australia’s Capital Cities
How Drought Is Affecting Water Supply In Australia’s Capital Cities
by Ian Wright and Jason Reynolds
The level of water stored by Australia’s capital cities has steadily fallen over the last six years. They are now…
How Jet Stream Changes May Hit Global Breadbaskets
How Jet Stream Changes May Hit Global Breadbaskets
by Alex Kirby
Food shortages and civil disturbances may result from changes in the jet stream winds which circle the Earth,…
How To Design A Forest Fit To Heal The Planet
How To Design A Forest Fit To Heal The Planet
by Heather Plumpton
Reforestation has enormous potential as a cheap and natural way of sucking heat-absorbing carbon dioxide out of the…
Investors Fight Back Against Climate Wreckers
Investors Fight Back Against Climate Wreckers
by Paul Brown
Investors are using their shareholdings to force polluting companies to change their ways and cut carbon emissions.
Americans Are Worried About Climate Change, But Underestimate How Serious It Is
Americans Are Worried About Climate Change, But Underestimate How Serious It Is
by Bobby Duffy
The world is often better and getting better than people think. Murder rates, deaths from terrorism and extreme poverty…
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
How Climate, Not Conflict, Drove Many Syrian Refugees To Lebanon
by Hussein A. Amery
People who fled Syria in recent years are often viewed as war refugees because of the violence that has engulfed much…