By analyzing forest soil in Wisconsin and North Carolina and heating it by 10 to 20 degrees, the researchers found out that the released carbon dioxide levels rose up to 8 times.
This would trigger a vicious cycle: “We found that decades-old carbon in surface soils is released to the atmosphere faster when temperatures become warmer,” said lead author Francesca Hopkins, a doctoral researcher in UCI’s Earth system science department. “This suggests that soils could accelerate global warming through a vicious cycle in which man-made warming releases carbon from soils to the atmosphere, which, in turn, would warm the planet more.”
A United Nations report says that soil contains twice as much carbon dioxide as air does. The team discovered, for the first times, by using carbon isotopes, older presumptions that soil carbon can indeed be released at higher temperatures.
You can’t have an idea of actually how much carbon is stored in forest soils: 104 billion tons – in the U.S. alone. However, they are safe repositories while the climate acts within its normal boundaries. When you disturb the natural planetary ecosystem, you can’t expect it not to rebound.
The even more sad thing is that once started, the process can’t be stopped.
The findings appeared in the June 11 online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.