Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rethinking connection between soil as a carbon reservoir and global warming

06.10.2011
The soil plays a key role in the ecosystem, economy and global carbon cycle.

After the oceans, the humus is the largest carbon reservoir. If the humus decreases, additional CO2 gets into the atmosphere. A research team headed by the University of Zurich has now discovered that the soil environment determines humus depletion, which means the question as to how soils respond to global climate change needs to be re-addressed.

Soils store three times as much carbon as plants and the atmosphere. Soil organic matter such as humus plays a key role in the global carbon cycle as it stores huge amounts of carbon and thus counters global warming. Consequently, the Kyoto Protocol permits the signatory countries to count soils and forests against greenhouse gas emissions as so-called carbon sinks.

Exactly why some soil organic matter remains stable for thousands of years while other soil organic matter degrades quickly and releases carbon, however, is largely unknown. The explanatory models used thus far assume that the degradation rate depends on the molecular structures of the soil organic matter. An international team of 14 researchers headed by Michael Schmidt, a professor of soil science and biogeography at the University of Zurich, has now revealed that numerous other factors affect the degradation rate of soil organic matter in an article published in «Nature».

Soil environment determines degradation rate of humus
«The degradation speed isn’t determined by the molecular structure of the dead plant debris, but by the soil environment in which the degradation takes place,» says Schmidt, summing up the new results. For instance, the physical isolation of the molecules, whether the molecules in the soil are protected by mineral or physical structures and soil moisture influence the degradation rate of soil organic matter. Furthermore, the researchers are able to show that, contrary to the scientific consensus, there is no humic matter in the soil and this should therefore not be used for models.
New experiments and models needed
As Professor Schmidt explains, the findings need to be used for new experiments and models. In doing so, it is not only the first few centimeters of the soil that should be examined, as has been the case up to now, but rather the full top two to three meters. In their article, the researchers make various suggestions as to how the models for forecasting the response of soils to changes in the climate, vegetation and land use might be improved.

Moreover, the new results cast a critical light on bioengineering experiments with plants containing high amounts of lignin or plant charcoal (biochar), with which more carbon is supposed to be stored in the soil in the long run.

Literature:
Michael W. I. Schmidt, Margaret S. Torn, Samuel Abiven, Thorsten Dittmar, Georg Guggenberger, Ivan A. Janssens, Markus Kleber, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, Johannes Lehmann, David A. C. Manning, Paolo Nannipieri, Daniel P. Rasse, Steve Weiner & Susan E. Trumbore: Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property, in: Nature, 6 October, 2011, DOI: 10.1038/nature10386

Nathalie Huber | idw
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Devils Hole: Ancient Traces of Climate History
24.05.2017 | Universität Innsbruck

nachricht Supercomputing helps researchers understand Earth's interior
23.05.2017 | University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

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...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>