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The Soil Might Contribute To Greenhouse Gases with Increasing Temperatures


According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase with the soil warming over time. The research conducted analyzed the soil 100 centimeters deep.

According to the research, the carbon dioxide release increased to 37% from 34%. Also, the deeper surface is warmed more than the other layers. This means that the carbon material in the world’s soil will contribute to carbon dioxide levels and global warming consequently.

This is an important issue as the soil has three times more carbon than the atmosphere. If the carbon in the soil were to be released, then the microbial and plant life would be detrimentally affected from it. One of the researchers of the study, Caitlin Hicks Pries commented:

“We found the response is quite significant. … If our findings are applied to soils around the globe that are similar to what we studied, meaning soils that are not frozen or saturated, our calculations suggest that by 2100 the warming of deeper soil layers could cause a release of carbon to the atmosphere at a rate that is significantly higher than today, perhaps even as high as 30% of today’s human-caused annual carbon emissions depending on the assumptions on which the estimate is based.”

Thus, the Paris agreement which aims to hold the global warming under 2° Celsius  isn’t that realistic. The only way to do this would be to stop industrial activity now and do not contribute to greenhouse gases from now on. Due to the living standards, cultures, and fundamental civilization systems, such a drastic change wouldn’t be possible. A press release provides more information on the issue:

“The scientists built their experiment around 6 soil plots that measure 3 meters in diameter. The perimeter of each plot was ringed with 22 heating cables that were vertically sunk more than 2 meters underground. They warmed 3 of the plots 4° Celsius for more than 2 years, leaving the other 3 plots unheated to serve as controls.

“They monitored soil respiration 3 different ways over the course of the experiment. Each plot had an automated chamber that measured the flux of carbon at the surface every half hour. In addition, one day each month, Hicks Pries and the team measured surface carbon fluxes at 7 different locations at each plot.

“A third method probed the all-important underground realm. A set of stainless steel ‘straws’ was installed below the surface at each plot. The scientists used the straws to measure CO2 concentrations once a month at 5 depths between 15 and 90 centimeters. By knowing these CO2 concentrations and other soil properties, they could model the extent to which each depth contributed to the amount of CO2 released at the surface.”

It is extremely important that the carbon dioxide release was 40% from 15 centimeters below the soil. It was also noted that the warming in the soil was the same across the 5 depths that were studied. Regarding the misunderstanding that warming can only happen in the topsoil, Researcher Margaret Torn commented:

“There’s an assumption that carbon in the subsoil is more stable and not as responsive to warming as in the topsoil, but we’ve learned that’s not the case. Deeper soil layers contain a lot of carbon, and our work indicates it’s a key missing component in our understanding of the potential feedback of soils to the planet’s climate.”

[via cleantechnica]

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