Erosion can bury carbon in the soil, acting as a carbon sin but a new study has found that part of that sink is only temporary.
The researchers estimated that roughly half of the carbon buried in soil by erosion will be re-released into the atmosphere within about 500 years. Their model estimates that climate change could speed the rate of decomposition, aiding the release of the buried carbon.
As a case study, the researchers used radiocarbon and optical dating to calculate the amount of carbon emissions captured in soils and released to the atmosphere during the past 6,000 years along the Dijle River in Belgium. The study's long time scope, from 4,000 B.C. to 2,000 A.D, allowed the researchers to notice the gradual reintroduction of buried carbon to the atmosphere.
Significant agricultural land conversion, historically the largest source of global erosion, began primarily in the past 150 years, well under the researchers' time frame of 500 years. Therefore, most carbon sequestered in the soil during the past 150 years of agricultural history has not been released yet but may become a significant carbon source in the future, with implications for soil management, the study said.
Roughly half of the carbon buried in soil by erosion will be re-released into the atmosphere within about 500 years, according to a new model. Credit: UC Davis
"It's all part of figuring out the global carbon cycle," said co-author Johan Six, professor of plant sciences at U.C. Davis. "Where are the sources, and where are the sinks? Erosion is in some ways a sink, but, as we found out, it can also become a source."
"Our results showed that half of the carbon initially present in the soil and vegetation was lost to the atmosphere as a result of agricultural conversion," said study co-author Gert Verstraeten, a professor at KU Leaven, Belgium.
Six noted that erosion could be minimized by no-till and low-till agricultural methods, as well as by cover cropping, which can ensure that soil is not left bare.
"We need to know where and how much carbon is being released or captured in order to develop sensible and cost-effective measures to curb climate change," said lead author, Kristof an Oost, of the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium.
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- 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 Gut Bacteria Ensure A Healthy Brain – and Could Play A Role In Treating Depression
- Researchers Created A Laser Bullet To See What It Would Look Like - And Here It Is
- We're Too Late To Prevent 137,000 More Ebola Cases, Says Epidemiology Paper
- The Strange Organic Molecules In Titan's Atmosphere
- The Quote Of The Week - Shocked And Disappointed
- As Seen on TV: Advertising’s Influence on Alcohol Abuse
- Type 1 Diabetes Surges In White Kids
- "For background, look at Paul Bloom’s 2004 book Descartes’ Baby. This has interesting material..."
- " It is possible that survival of Ebola virus victims would be much improved if an artificial fever..."
- "Priceless! I really needed a kick in the pants to get me to laugh at myself and this post did it..."
- "You have done an immense amount of work. It would help if you added some boxes to explain how you..."
- "2) All that is possible is possible; none of the impossible will be made possible. 3) None of the..."
- US Ebola hysteria and money pit highlight lack of resources to confront diseases that kill far more people
- Addiction can be measured by epigenetics
- Coffee grounds turned biofuel can heat your home
- Bill and Melinda Gates on GMOs: ‘Poor farmers should not be denied choice of life-saving tools’
- Why do foodies love organics? Because they taste like McDonald’s!
- GMO milk? An enviros dream innovation that most enviros oppose
- Global boom in hydropower expected this decade
- For brain hemorrhage, risk of death is lower at high-volume hospitals
- Roman-Britons had less gum disease than modern Britons
- 'Swingers' multiple drug use heightens risk of sexually transmitted diseases
- Were clinical trial practices in East Germany questionable?