The rapid increase of nitrogen falling from the sky as a result of fossil-fuel combustion and crop fertilization, combined with carbon stored in Earths soils, could change the rate of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, rising into the atmosphere, according to a new study.
Scientists believe about 300 times more carbon is stored in soils than is being put in the atmosphere in the form of C02, according to biology Assistant Professor Alan Townsend of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Each year soils release about 20 times more carbon than industrial activities through decomposition.
"Decomposition is primarily balanced by plant growth, but increasing nitrogen falling on ecosystems could change that balance," he said. The study shows tundra soils are unexpectedly sensitive to added nitrogen, bringing up the question of how increases in nitrogen throughout the world might affect C02 storage areas, or sinks, on land," Townsend said.
Alan Townsend | EurekAlert!
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