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?
- Are Marijuana Warning Labels Needed? Users Say Yes
- Should Pregnant Women Be Concerned About BPA?
- The Five Stages Of A Dying Theory
- Bioartificial Kidney On The Horizon
- Forget The Best, Here Are The Worst 'Science' Websites Of 2016
- Lisa Long Leg Love The Science Comic For The Trump Age
- Australopithecus Afarensis: ‘Lucy’ Was A Tree Climber?
- "Look Robert, I'm not going into a tit-for-tat argument with you. But there is no controversy that..."
- "Ok, that means Ms. Roth was wrong and also was telling that hoax right? Also, the link can´t let..."
- "Photodaddy, They found that 93% of the temperature increase lags the CO2 increase. Please, for..."
- " http://www.climatedepot.com/2016/12/07/trump-ignores-gores-advice-instead-picks-skeptic-to-head..."
- "See my Debunked - The world will end because the Bible (or some other sacred book) says soIt's..."
- Four New Superheavy Elements Have Official Names
- Dear UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Don't Drive 'Gene Drives' Into a Ditch
- No Surprise: Parents' Screen Times Worse Than Kids
- Genetically Engineered Yeast Is Resistant to Caffeine
- Credit NHL for Smart, Safe Concussion Strategy
- Don't Drive 'Gene Drives' Into a Ditch