From: Oregon State University
Published October 5, 2017 04:50 PM

Sunlight and the right microbes convert Arctic carbon into carbon dioxide

Nearly half of the organic carbon stored in soil around the world is contained in Arctic permafrost, which has experienced rapid melting, and that organic material could be converted to greenhouse gases that would exacerbate global warming.

When permafrost thaws, microbial consumption of those carbon reserves produces carbon dioxide – much of which eventually winds up in the atmosphere, but scientists have been unsure of just how the system works.

A new study published this week in Nature Communications outlines the mechanisms and points to the importance of both sunlight and the right microbial community as keys to converting permafrost carbon to CO2. The research was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

“We’ve long known that microbes convert the carbon into CO2, but previous attempts to replicate the Arctic system in laboratory settings have failed,” noted Byron Crump, an Oregon State University biogeochemist and co-author on the study. “As it turns out, that is because the laboratory experiments did not include a very important element – sunlight.

Read more at Oregon State University

Image: When Arctic permafrost melts, it seeps into streams and lakes where it is exposed to sunlight, starting the process of converting it to carbon dioxide (Credit: Oregon State University)

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