Researcher conducts first-ever global-scale evaluation of the role of soil minerals in carbon storage.
One answer to our greenhouse gas challenges may be right under our feet: Soil scientists Oliver Chadwick of UC Santa Barbara and Marc Kramer of Washington State University have found that minerals in soil can hold on to a significant amount of carbon pulled from the atmosphere. It’s a mechanism that could potentially be exploited as the world tries to shift its carbon economy.
“We’ve known for quite a long time that the carbon stored on minerals is the carbon that sticks around for a long time,” said Chadwick, co-author of the paper, “Climate-driven thresholds in reactive mineral retention of soil carbon at the global scale,” published in the journal Nature Climate Change. How much carbon the soil can take and how much it can keep, he said, are dependent on factors including temperature and moisture.
“When plants photosynthesize, they draw carbon out of the atmosphere, then they die and their organic matter is incorporated in the soil,” Chadwick explained. “Bacteria decompose that organic matter, releasing carbon that can either go right back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or it can get held on the surface of soil minerals.”
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