Soil Production of C02 May Decline As World Warms
Contradicting earlier studies showing that soil microbes will emit more carbon dioxide as global warming intensifies, new research suggests that these microbes become less efficient over time in a warmer environment and would actually emit less CO2. The research, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, could have important implications for calculating how much heat-trapping CO2 will accumulate in the atmosphere as temperatures rise.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, as well as Colorado State and Yale universities, found that soil microbes, in the form of bacteria and fungi, rapidly exhale CO2 for a short period of time in a warmer environment. But as higher temperatures persist, the microbes begin to use carbon less efficiently in their respiration process, which causes the microbes to decrease in number and emit less CO2 into the atmosphere.
"Microbes aren't the destructive agents of global warming that scientists had previously believed," said the study’s lead author, Steve Allison of UC Irvine. But Allison and his co-authors cautioned that further study is necessary to determine how soil enzymes might evolve as temperatures rise, which could affect the carbon balance in soils.