Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientist furthering discussion of soil carbon decomposition


Study addresses feedbacks to climate change

Significantly more carbon is stored in the world’s soils than is present in the atmosphere. In a process called a "positive feedback," global warming may stimulate decomposition of soil organic matter, thus releasing heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas to the atmosphere, possibly causing the rate of global warming to increase further. Disagreement exists, however, regarding the effects of climate change on global soil carbon stocks. Eric Davidson, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, has written a review paper that clarifies the issues regarding temperature sensitivity of decomposition within a framework that helps to focus the ensuing debate and research. Co-authored with Ivan Janssens of the University of Antwerpen (Belgium), the study is being published in an upcoming issue of Nature.

According to Dr. Davidson, interest in this topic is high because of its importance in the global carbon cycle and potential feedbacks to climate change. "The arctic, in particular, is experiencing very rapid warming, causing permafrost to melt and some peatlands to dry out, thus potentially exposing huge stocks of previously frozen and waterlogged carbon to decomposition. We need to understand how much of this carbon that is stored in soils, peatlands, and permafrost is susceptible to loss in a warmer world. If you unplug your refrigerator, you can demonstrate that your food, which is basically organic matter, spoils more quickly when it is warm. However, because the soil is a complex mixture of minerals and organic matter derived from plant leaves and roots, soil scientists and ecologists have had difficulty teasing out the conditions and types of organic matter that respond significantly to temperature changes." The review paper by Davidson and Janssens sets forth a description of how both the chemical complexity of carbon molecules and the soil conditions in which they are found determine the rates at which they decompose.

While most of the research results that Davidson and Janssens review come from studies of forests and farms in temperate regions, they conclude that research on the temperature sensitivity of decomposition should be broadened to include peatlands, wetlands and permafrost in boreal and arctic regions, where huge stocks of soil carbon are susceptible to a rapidly changing climate Davidson says, "We know that decomposition of organic matter responds to temperature, but we need to establish a common conceptual framework to demonstrate the ’what, where, and how fast’ of soil carbon decomposition. Hopefully, our paper will help clarify those issues and will stimulate more research where it is most urgently needed – the potential ’time bomb’ of decomposition of carbon in peatland and permafrost."

Davidson’s research on soil carbon has been funded by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

Dr. Davidson is an ecologist and soil scientist interested in the role of soil microorganisms as processors of carbon and nitrogen. He has studied the transfer of carbon and nitrogen gases from the soil to the atmosphere, where they contribute to warming of the earth. His research addresses how human management of the land affects this transfer of greenhouse gases. Dr. Davidson has held positions as National Research Council Associate at the NASA Ames Research Center and as Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Soil Microbiology at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his doctorate in forestry at North Carolina State University.

Elizabeth Braun | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>