Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise – in 2012 alone, 35.7 billion tons of this greenhouse gas entered the atmosphere*. Some of this CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, plants and soil. As such, they provide a significant reservoir of carbon, stemming the release of CO2.
Carbon tends to bind to specific rough mineral surfaces in the soil (yellow areas). (Image: C. Vogel/TUM)
New organic carbon mostly accumulates on existing hot spots. Left: Mineral surfaces with all accumulations of carbon (yellow). Right: Mineral surfaces with new organic substance (green and magenta). (Image: C. Vogel/TUM)
Scientists have now discovered how organic carbon is stored in soil. Basically, the carbon only binds to certain soil structures. This means that soil’s capacity to absorb CO2 needs to be re-assessed and incorporated into today’s climate models.
Previous studies have established that carbon binds to tiny mineral particles. In this latest study, published in Nature Communications, researchers of the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the Helmholtz Zentrum München have shown that the surface of the minerals plays just as important a role as their size. “The carbon binds to minerals that are just a few thousandths of a millimeter in size – and it accumulates there almost exclusively on rough and angular surfaces,” explains Prof. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, TUM Chair of Soil Science.
The role of microorganisms in sequestering carbon
It is presumed that the rough mineral surfaces provide an attractive habitat for microbes. These convert the carbon and play a part in binding it to minerals. “We discovered veritable hot spots with a high proportion of carbon in the soil,” relates Cordula Vogel, the lead author of the study. “Furthermore, new carbon binds to areas which already have a high carbon content.”
These carbon hot spots are, however, only found on around 20 percent of the mineral surfaces. It was previously assumed that carbon is evenly distributed in the soil. “Thanks to our study, we can now pin-point the soil that is especially good for sequestering CO2,” continues Kögel-Knabner. “The next step is to include these findings in carbon cycle models.”
Mass spectrometer helps to visualize molecules
The sample material used by the team was loess, a fertile agricultural soil found in all parts of the world – which makes it a very important carbon store. The researchers were able to take ultra-precise measurements using the NanoSIMS mass spectrometer. This procedure allowed them to view and compare even the most minute soil structures.
*Source: Global Carbon AtlasPublication:
How is climate change affecting fauna in the Arctic?
22.05.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Sea level as a metronome of Earth's history
19.05.2017 | Université de Genève
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy