21 July 2024
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Understanding Soil Carbon Sensitivity to Climate Change

Soil carbon, a crucial component of the Earth’s carbon cycle, plays a significant role in climate regulation. Recent research has highlighted the sensitivity of soil carbon to increasing global temperatures, particularly in the context of climate change. The vulnerability of soil carbon to microbial decomposition under warmer temperatures has raised concerns about its potential impact on carbon sequestration and climate mitigation efforts.

Soil Organic Matter and Climate Mitigation

Soil organic matter contains a substantial amount of carbon, surpassing the carbon content of plants and the atmosphere combined. This reservoir of carbon in the soil has garnered attention for its capacity to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby mitigating climate change. However, as temperatures rise globally, understanding the dynamics of soil carbon and its response to changing environmental conditions becomes imperative for effective climate action.

Distinguishing Soil Carbon Pools

In examining the effects of temperature on soil carbon, researchers have identified two distinct pools of carbon within the soil: mineral-associated carbon and particulate soil carbon. Mineral-associated carbon, which binds to clay minerals and can persist for extended periods, contrasts with particulate carbon derived from decomposed plant material that cycles more rapidly. An analysis of global data reveals that particulate carbon exhibits a higher temperature sensitivity compared to mineral-associated carbon, especially in cooler climates.

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Published on: December 1, 2020 Description: Emergent constraints contributed talk from Rebecca Varney (University of Exeter) Monday 23rd November 2020.
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Implications for Earth System Models

The study also sheds light on discrepancies in Earth system models regarding the distribution of carbon between soil carbon pools. While mineral-associated carbon comprises a significant portion of total soil carbon globally, the models vary widely in their representation of this pool. The mismatch between model predictions and empirical data underscores the need for refining these models to enhance their accuracy in predicting soil carbon dynamics and ecosystem responses to climate change.

The sensitivity of soil carbon to increasing temperatures underscores the complex interplay between soil processes and climate change. By elucidating the distinct vulnerabilities of soil carbon pools and addressing the discrepancies in Earth system models, researchers aim to improve our understanding of soil carbon dynamics and enhance the effectiveness of climate mitigation strategies.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.nature.com 2. www.sciencedirect.com 3. www.soilcarboncoalition.org

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Soil carbon, Climate change, Earth system models

Soil carbon
Soil carbon is the solid carbon stored in global soils. This includes both soil organic matter and inorganic carbon as carbonate minerals. It is vital to the soil capacity in our ecosystem. Soil carbon is a carbon sink in regard to the global carbon cycle, playing a role in biogeochemistry,...
Read more: Soil carbon

Climate change
In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate change in a broader sense also includes previous long-term changes to Earth's climate. The current rise in global average temperature is more rapid than previous changes, and is primarily...
Read more: Climate change

Earth system science
Earth system science (ESS) is the application of systems science to the Earth. In particular, it considers interactions and 'feedbacks', through material and energy fluxes, between the Earth's sub-systems' cycles, processes and "spheres"—atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, pedosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and even the magnetosphere—as well as the impact of human societies...
Read more: Earth system science

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