Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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The soil emits carbon as the trees grow faster

At the same time as fast-growing trees are soaring and absorbing more carbon dioxide, the soil’s ability to bind carbon seems to be declining. This is what researchers write in this week’s issue of the journal Nature, and call for new forecasts for the future climate.

There may thus be a deficit in the account of the forest land’s carbon balance when greenhouse gases drive growth in ecosystems, as there is a limitation built into the systems’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide. A possible explanation may be found in the roots of the growing trees. When they seek more nutrition in the soil, they simultaneously initiate processes that researchers have not included in their models over the carbon cycle.

– It is related to the interaction of microorganisms with the roots of trees. The activity and degradation in the soil increases in connection with the plants’ increased growth, and this increases the emissions of the carbon stored in the soil, says Anders Lindroth, ecologist at Lund University.

More research is needed

About 30 percent of the carbon dioxide that humans emit into the atmosphere each year is taken care of by plants and trees. The growing vegetation is one of the main carbon sinks on earth. But the balance between the uptake of plants and the soil’s storage of carbon is thus disturbed when greenhouse gases increase.

Researchers believe that this negative relationship is explained by the plants’ uptake of nutrients, but in current models of the future climate, it has not been expected that ground carbon will decrease, and they may therefore need to be renewed.

The ecosystems studied are all located in temperate areas, and the effects mainly apply to forest land, so more research is needed in the area.

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– The models that exist today are far too simple, and at best, this study can lead to digging deeper into these issues to get reliable forecasts of future climate change, says Anders Lindroth.

Play the clip to hear biologist Ana Bastos explain what the discovery of minus in the carbon balance means.

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