In response to warmer temperatures, the microbes that thrive in soils increase their rate of decomposing soil carbon, and hence, they accelerate release of CO2 into the atmosphere. This is the latest finding of scientists from University of Wyoming (UW) and Colorado State University (CSU).
To determine the mechanisms behind the accelerated soil carbon loss during climate change, WU and CSU researchers designed a novel laboratory method, the Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment (PHACE) experiment, which involved inoculating sterile soils with microbes in simulated climate change conditions.
Results showed increased plant growth under such conditions. However, the accelerated microbial decomposition of carbon material in soil offsets the carbon absorption caused by plants.
The study also suggested the possibilities of decreased sustainability of plant growth and decreased productivity of ecosystem.
Furthermore, researchers believe that the microbes’ unexpected response is vital to be included in generating ecosystem and climate change prediction models.