Climate Change: Dead Microbes Plays a Significant Role
As we look to understand future challenges and solutions under climate change, the balance of carbon stored in dirt is a crucial component. There is more organic carbon stored in soils than in the atmosphere and plants combined.
In the soil, organic carbon builds up as plants lock up carbon from the air via photosynthesis. The carbon can be stored away in the soil in plant roots or in the soil microbes the plants interact with. When the soil microbes die, the carbon locked up in their cells?as well as by-products from the microbes' life?remain in the dirt for long periods of time.
Therefore, small increases in soil carbon can have a much larger impact in removing carbon dioxide from the air.
Scientists from China, Germany and the U.S. released a new study demonstrating that more than half of organic carbon in soil can be comprised of dead microbes. Using data from previous studies conducted between 1996 and 2018, the researchers calculated the mass of dead microbes using chemical patterns unique to compounds produced by fungi and bacteria across different types of ecosystems.
Carbon stored in dead microbes are kept out of the atmosphere for longer than some other forms of soil organic carbon. Scientists had long understood the importance of dead microbes for carbon storage, but this new research finally quantified the impact of dead microbes.
The new calculations, which indicate dead microbes compose a significant amount of organic carbon in the soil can also help improve climate and carbon cycling models that are used in developing best practices and policies.
Dead microbes comprise more than half of soil organic carbon in ecosystems such as grasslands and agricultural land in temperate areas. In other ecosystems, like temperate forests, soil carbon is mainly stored in other ways besides dead microbes. The scientists say this might be the result of less mixing of the soil. Plus, forest soils are limited by nutrients important to decomposition, a process that allows more soil microbes to thrive.
As a result, land managers may want to focus on promoting microbial growth in soil. The microbes will consequently die and help store carbon in the soil, which could help minimize self-reinforcing cycles under climate change.Disclaimer- This information is entirely by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Just Learning.