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Soils respond differently to warming

News: Mar 02, 2018

flower with a fence made of plastic

Fieldwork experiment. Photo: Louise C. Andresen.

As the climate becomes warmer, there is also an increased risk that soils releasing carbon, will become something of a “carbon bomb” and further accelerate global warming. But new research reveals that the effect varies with different types of soil.

Behind the study are also researchers from the University of Gothenburg. This new research show that it is not only the most carbon-rich soils that pose a risk of further triggering global warming.

The Earth’s temperature is increasing

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere heats up the entire Earth. The soil contains four times as much carbon as the atmosphere. If that carbon is released in the form of carbon dioxide or methane, global warming is accelerated.

Researchers all over the world have conducted field heating trials on widely different field sites. The results was then analysed using mathematical models in order to explain what happens with carbon if the world becomes warmer. Another recently published study reveals that those soils that contain the most carbon also emit the largest amount of carbon dioxide when warmed.

Reality more complex than found previous

But the new study in Nature shows that the reality is not that simple. The results from the study show that the correlation between hotter soils and carbon emissions, in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, is more complicated than researchers previously believed.

“Our study doesn’t change the fact that certain soils emit carbon when the climate becomes warmer, but the correlation between carbon in the ground and warming is complicated. It varies from one location to another and between different soils, probably depending on several variables, not just one. It’s important to acknowledge that soils around the world respond differently to an increase in temperature,” says Louise C. Andresen at the University of Gothenburg.

Title of the article: Predicting soil carbon loss with warming

Link to the article: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25745

Contact details:

Louise Andresen, researcher at the Department of Geosciences, University of Gothenburg, Mobile: +46 721 840653, Email: Louise.andresen@gu.se

Top photo: Fieldwork experiment. Photo: Louise C. Andresen.
Portrait photo of Louise C. Andresen



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