Agricultural soil erosion is not a source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, according to research published in Science. The study was carried out by an international team of researchers from UC Davis, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, and the University of Exeter in the U.K.
Carbon emissions are of great concern worldwide because they, and other greenhouse gases, trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and are a major cause of global climate change.
"There is still little known about how much carbon exactly is released, versus captured, by different processes in terrestrial ecosystems," said Johan Six, a professor of agroecology at UC Davis and one of the study's authors. "We urgently need to quantify this if we are to develop sensible and cost-effective measures to combat climate change."
In their new study, the researchers found that erosion acts like a conveyor belt, excavating subsoil, passing it through surface soils and burying it in hollows downhill. During its journey, the soil absorbs carbon from plant material; when the soil is buried, so is the carbon.
Erosion, therefore, creates what can be described as a "sink" of atmospheric carbon.
The team improved previous estimates of the amount of carbon being sunk. Said lead author Kristof Van Oost of the Catholic University of Leuven, "Some academics have argued that soil erosion causes considerable emissions of carbon, and others that erosion is actually offsetting fossil-fuel emissions. Now, our research clearly shows that neither of these is the case."
They found that erosion captures the equivalent of about 1.5 percent of annual fossil-fuel emissions worldwide. Earlier studies suggested a broad range of erosion's effects, from a sink equaling 10 percent of fossil-fuel emissions, to a source equaling 13 percent.
Even without major carbon impacts, the researchers said, erosion is a problem that must be addressed, because it has a detrimental effect on agricultural productivity and the surrounding environment.
Funding for the study was provided by the University of California's Kearney Foundation of Soil Science, the European Commission under the Marie Curie IntraEuropean Fellowship Programme, and the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders.
- University of California Davis
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine
- A Billion Years Ago, What Did Earth's Ancient Magnetic Field Look Like?
- Nanotech: The Most Dangerous Science Least Carefully Done
- Can A New Rule Trigger A Second EU Referendum? Petition Signatures Over 11% Of Total Votes Cast
- Finding All-Hadronic Top - Again
- Insects Were Already Using Camouflage 100 Million Years Ago
- Better Brains With Beer
- "so in a nutshell basically they're not taking worries seriously..."
- "Sentence makes perfect sense. Has it been fixed?..."
- "If its based on signature on rocks, then the hypothesis is wrong. Because rocks form from molten..."
- "You should proof read. The very first sentence makes no sense. Didn't bother reading the rest. ..."
- "Thanks for your understanding!Cheers,T...."
- Got Zika? Thank An Environmentalist
- Magical Moron Moments: Burn Your Feet with Tony Robbins
- IARC is controversial – because they put ideology over science
- Congressman Bob Gibbs: Biotechnology is feeding millions
- Science For the Win: Pepsi Does the Walk of Shame Back to Aspartame
- Help! My Smartwatch Is Nagging Me!
- Patient-centered approach to collect sexual orientation and gender ID information studied
- Cross-respiration between oral bacteria leads to worse infections
- Researchers identify new strategy for decreasing neonatal mortality
- Researcher finds 'ghost workers' common in migrant farm work
- Novel lipid lowering medication improves blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes