Project leader Professor Pete Millard of Aberdeen’s Macaulay Institute explains: “Globally, soils contain over 300 times the amount of carbon released each year due to the burning of fossil fuels, and this carbon has until now, been safely locked up below ground.
“As the planet is warming up, this carbon is being released from the soil into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but there are in fact two types of carbon —‘new’ carbon, which has recently entered the soil through vegetation, and ‘old’ carbon, which has been locked up in the soil for years.
“It is the amount of this old carbon being lost as CO2 that has the biggest climate change effect,” he added, “as it signifies the soil changing from being a carbon-store to a source of carbon — a carbon-emitter.”
Measuring the loss of carbon from soils is relatively straightforward, but determining how much is from this old carbon has up to now proved very difficult. Now this joint project between the Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen and Landcare Research, New Zealand, has developed a method to measure the release of old carbon from soils.
Their approach is based upon the measurement of very small differences in the amount of an isotope, carbon-13, which is naturally present in all carbon dioxide, including that released by soils into the atmosphere.
"We are excited because it's very relevant at the moment. We need to predict how the climate is going to change and of course that's related to the atmosphere, the vegetation and the soil," said Professor Millard.
Funded by the Scottish government and the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden fund, the researchers have been working on this for three years, and now for the first time, they have been able to differentiate how much old, historical carbon is being released from soils.
"The implications of knowing this are very important and it will enable us to determine for the first time what the consequences of changes in land use might be for climate change," said Professor Millard. "As more CO2 is released from the soil, the temperature is going to increase further — it could almost be a runway reaction.”
Also working on the project are David Whitehead, John Hunt and Margaret Barbour from Landcare Research, NZ.
Dave Stevens | alfa
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy