How Do You Know How Climate Change Is Effecting Soil?

Researchers continues to report on how climate change is effecting soil. As global warming and climate change progresses, the carbon stored inside Earth’s soil could escape into the atmosphere at a much faster rate than previously expected. In a worst-case climate change scenario, carbon dioxide emissions could increase by 34 to 37 percent by 2100. In previous predictions, that number was merely nine to 12 percent, if no efforts were taken to curb climate change.

A lot of the extra carbon dioxide will come from soils at depths that had previously been overlooked in earlier studies.

Soil covers about two thirds of ice-free land on earth and store approximately three trillion metric tons of organic carbon, which is more than three times the amount of carbon that exists in the atmosphere. Dead organisms like plants can contribute to this buildup of carbon, as can microbes that eat these carbon and generate carbon dioxide that then goes into the atmosphere. The rising global temperatures will make those microbes consume plants faster, which in turn speeds up carbon dioxide creation.

How Do We Know How Climate Change Is Effecting Soil?

So what methods are scientists using to analyze the fluctuations in heat and the effects on soil environments and carbon dioxide?

Researchers have been able to mimic warming processes by heating the top five to 20 centimeters of soil in experimental areas, then measuring the CO2 emissions that result from them. These studies missed soils deeper below the surface, though, which contain more than half of the soil carbon. Warming these soils is extremely difficult, and scientists had previously assumed these emission increases far below the surface were inconsequential.

However, using heating coils and rods, a team of scientists in the Sierra Nevada region of California were able to heat the soil to a meter below ground, which was the full depth of the soil in that region. The heating was used to replicate the expected four degrees of warming that would occur by 2100 in a worst-case scenario. In this trial, annual carbon emissions rose from 1,100 grams per square meter to 1,450 grams per square meter. Around 40 percent of this increase occurred below a depth of 15 centimeters.

If other soil types behave in the same way, this means emission rates from soils deeper than 30 centimetres below the surface would equal current CO2 emission rates from all oil burning applications.

Clearly, this is yet another element of climate change scientists must test and consider in developing models for future outcomes. Climate change is effecting soil and over time could have a significant impact on the health of the planet moving forward.

The staff at SoilAdvocates would be happy to discuss any of your soil issues, contact us anytime for assistance.

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By |2017-11-30T12:09:44-04:00November 30th, 2017|Categories: Blog, Environment|Tags: , , , , |

About the Author:

Dr. Leanne J Philip, BSc. (Hon.); MSc.; PhD. is the Managing Director & Chief Scientist of Soil Advocates Inc. She studied at the University of Guelph as an undergraduate (Plant Biology, Environmental Management and Urban Horticulture) and as a graduate student (Plant & Soil Interactions). She has a keen interest in soil sciences, which lead her to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver for doctoral studies in soil carbon sequestration and movement within British Columbia’s clear-cut soils. Further work in soil sciences in Europe and Canada reinforced Dr. Philip’s belief that soil processes and mechanisms belowground drive aboveground aesthetics and plant interactions. While active in both research, mentorship and teaching, most recently Dr. Philip has been working in applied soil sciences in industry and community outreach. Dr. Philip is a native of southern Ontario and is a strong advocate for scientific literacy within her community and responsible environmental stewardship.

One Comment

  1. Dave Stanley July 2, 2018 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    Suggested this issue should be turned around. A more critical perspective is what impact should appropriate so management have on climate change, not only in carbon dioxide removal – carbon sequestration to soils but also in impacting on the functioning of the water cycle and inference this has on global temperature management.

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