Study Shows Rising Temperatures Affects Carbon Release from Soil

COURTESY OF THE MARINE BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY: Measuring carbon flux from soil at Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska. (Photo by Jim Tang)

COURTESY OF THE MARINE BIOLOGICAL LABORATORY: Measuring carbon flux from soil at Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska. (Photo by Jim Tang)

WOODS HOLE – The Earth’s soil releases about nine times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all human activities combined and scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole are studying if warming temperatures will increase the CO2 released from soil and accelerate climate change.

MBL scientists Joanna Carey, Jianwu Tang and others collected data from 27 studies across nine biomes, from the desert to the Arctic and have published an analysis in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

One prediction resulting from the data is that rising global temperatures will result in variable responses in soil respiration across different regions.

Colder climates show signs of being significantly more responsive.

The study found that soil respiration increased with soil temperature up to about 77 degrees, according to Carey. Respiration rates decreased with further increases in soil temps above 77 degrees.

Arctic climates will continue to be the most responsive which could have serious repercussions for future climate change because there is so much carbon stored in frozen soils.

The team also found that soil microbes in experimental warming studies showed no signs of adapting to the rising temperatures and do not seem to slow respiration in response.

The scientists said more data is needed from under and non-represented regions, especially the Arctic and the tropics.

Other MBL scientists who contributed to this study include Mary Heskel, Jerry Melillo, Edward Rastetter and Gaius Shaver.

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