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article imageAre soil microbes linked to climate change?

By Tim Sandle     Sep 27, 2014 in Science
Without knowing how microbes in the soil contribute to atmospheric carbon, researchers are unclear how microbes impact on climate change. This conundrum has lead to a series of recent studies.
One such study was reported on recently by Digital Journal. With this, the life-cycle of soil microbes in warmer temperatures appeared to affect soil carbon storage. The slower the rate of growth, the more carbon that is released into the atmosphere.
Furthermore, relationships between soil, forests and climate change are complex. In another related story, Digital Journal considered the impact of deforestation in the Amazon on microbial communities and carbon levels.
In a new study published in Nature, a team led by investigators at the U.K.’s University of Exeter examined the responses of microbes in soils taken from a range of climatic zones to temperature change. According to The Scientist, the researchers found the strongest effects of microbial community responses, in terms of increasing the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration, were in soils that have large carbon stocks and are from cold regions which are warming rapidly. This potentially increases the vulnerability of these important carbon stocks to climate change, especially as more than half of the total amount of soil carbon is stored in arctic and boreal regions. So, an increase in carbon dioxide respired by microbes could be a serious problem.
These areas of research are regarded as important because there is an estimated 2,500 billion metric tons of carbon is stored in the soil. Thus, understanding interactions between the soil and the atmosphere is of importance to predicting the impacts of climate change.
The new Nature journal study is titled "Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration rates enhanced by microbial community response."
More about Soil, Carbon, Climate change, Atmosphere
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