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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Huge carbon sink in soil minerals: New avenue for offsetting rising greenhouse gases

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November 8, 2017  Washington State University read full ScienceDaily article here

Soil holds more than three times the carbon found in the atmosphere, yet its potential in reducing atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels and mitigating global warming is barely understood. A researcher has discovered that vast amounts of carbon can be stored by soil minerals more than a foot below the surface. The finding could help offset the rising greenhouse-gas emissions helping warm the Earth’s climate…

…Findings in one of two related papers demonstrate how the right management practices can help trap much of the carbon dioxide that is rapidly warming the planet...

…Almost three-fourths of all carbon sequestered in the top three feet of the soil is affected by agriculture, grazing or forest management, Kramer and his colleagues report in the Annual Review paper.

Earlier research by Kramer found that certain farming practices can dramatically increase carbon in the soil. Writing in Nature Communications in 2015, Kramer documented how three farms converted to management-intensive grazing practices raised their carbon levels to those of native forest soils in just six years. While cultivation has decreased soil carbon levels by one-half to two-thirds, the soils he examined had a 75 percent increase in carbon.

…Knowing more about how soil stores carbon can open the door to new techniques that will entrain carbon deep into the soil while continuing to produce food and fiber….

  1. Marc G. Kramer, Kate Lajtha, Anthony Audfenkampe. Depth trends of soil organic matter C:N and 15N natural abundance controlled by association with minerals. Biogeochemistry, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10533-017-0378-x
  2. Robert B. Jackson, Kate Lajtha, Susan E. Crow, Gustaf Hugelius, Marc G. Kramer, Gervasio Piñeiro. The Ecology of Soil Carbon: Pools, Vulnerabilities, and Biotic and Abiotic Controls. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 2017; 48 (1): 419 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-112414-054234

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