From: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Published March 7, 2017 02:16 PM

Future climate change will affect plants and soil differently

A new European study has found that soil carbon loss is more sensitive to climate change compared to carbon taken up by plants. In drier regions, soil carbon loss decreased but in wetter regions soil carbon loss increased. This could result in a positive feedback to the atmosphere leading to an additional increase of atmospheric CO2 levels.

Scientists analysed data from seven climate change experiments across Europe to show how European shrubland plant biomass and soil carbon loss is affected by summer drought and year-around warming.

The research was led by Dr Sabine Reinsch and Professor Bridget Emmett from the UK-based Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) in collaboration with European and US climate scientists and published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

The authors showed that soil carbon loss is most responsive to change in soil water. Soil water plays a critical role in wet soils where water logging limits decomposition processes by soil biota resulting in a build-up of soil carbon as peat. Drying of the soil removes this limitation resulting in soil carbon loss. In contrast in drier soils, reduced rainfall reduces soil water below the optimum for soil biota resulting in a decrease in soil carbon loss.

Read more at Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Photo credit: Rachel Harvey

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