Carbon, one of the main building blocks for all life on Earth, cycles among living organisms and the environment.
Carbon, one of the main building blocks for all life on Earth, cycles among living organisms and the environment. This cycle, and how it works in one of the driest places on Earth, is the subject of a new study recently published in the journal Plant and Soil with lead author and Arizona State University scientist Heather Throop.
While the natural carbon cycle should be balanced each year, with about as much carbon taken out of the atmosphere as is released back by natural processes, humans are upsetting this balance through carbon dioxide additions to the atmosphere, both through changing land use that releases carbon stored in soils and from burning fossil fuels.
In an effort to understand what controls the release of carbon dioxide from soils in deserts, Throop and a team of university students from Namibia conducted field work in the Namib Desert, one of the world’s driest regions that stretches more than 1,200 miles along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
What Throop and her team ultimately determined from their research is that subtle differences in surface topography and erosion have big influences on microorganisms in the soil and these differences ultimately affect carbon cycling. Even in the driest places, they found signs of life influencing carbon cycling.
Read more at Arizona State University
Image: University students Ruusa Gottlieb (L) and Priscilla Mundilo (R) measure carbon dioxide release from the soil at one of the high rainfall sites in the Namib Desert. (Credit: Throop/ASU)