Soil carbon feedback

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Map showing extent and types of permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere

The soil carbon feedback concerns releases of carbon from soils, in response to global warming, known as a positive climate feedback. Soil carbon contains three times as much carbon as Earth's atmosphere,[1] which makes them crucial to understand related carbon fluxes. However, other studies suggest that soils contain twice as much carbon than contained in the atmosphere.[2] Measurements imply that 4 °C of warming increases annual soil respiration by up to 37%.[3] Climate models do not account for effects of biochemical heat release associated with microbial decomposition.[4]


An observation based study on future climate change, on the soil carbon feedback, conducted since 1991 in Harvard, suggests release of about 190 petagrams of soil carbon, the equivalent of the past two decades of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning, until 2100 from the top 1-meter of Earth's soils, due to changes in microbial communities under elevated temperatures.[5][6]

Thawing of permafrost (frozen ground), which is located in higher latitudes, the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, suggest based on observational evidence a linear and chronic release of greenhouse gas emissions with ongoing climate change from these carbon dynamics.[7]

A study published in 2011 identified a so-called compost-bomb instability, related to a tipping point with explosive soil carbon releases from peatlands. The authors noted that there is a unique stable soil carbon equilibrium for any fixed atmospheric temperature.[4]

A 2018 study concludes, "Climate-driven losses of soil carbon are currently occurring across many ecosystems, with a detectable and sustained trend emerging at the global scale."[2][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Study: Soils Could Release Much More Carbon Than Expected as Climate Warms". Berkeley Lab. March 9, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Bond-Lamberty; et al. (2018). "Globally rising soil heterotrophic respiration over recent decades". Nature. 560 (7716): 80–83. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0358-x. PMID 30068952.
  3. ^ Caitlin E. Hicks Pries, C. Castanha, R. C. Porras, M. S. Torn (2017). "The whole-soil carbon flux in response to warming". Science. AAAS. 355 (6332): 1420–1423. doi:10.1126/science.aal1319.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b S. Wieczorek, P. Ashwin, C. M. Luke, P. M. Cox (2011). "Excitability in ramped systems: the compost-bomb instability". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. The Royal Society. 467 (2129): 1243–1269. doi:10.1098/rspa.2010.0485.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "One of the oldest climate change experiments has led to a troubling conclusion". The Washington Post. October 5, 2017.
  6. ^ Melillo; et al. (2017). "Long-term pattern and magnitude of soil carbon feedback to the climate system in a warming world". Science. AAAS. 358 (6359): 101–105. doi:10.1126/science.aan2874.
  7. ^ Schuur; et al. (2014). "Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback". Nature. 520 (7546): 171–179. doi:10.1038/nature14338.
  8. ^ "In vicious cycle, warmer dirt makes climate change worse, study says". AP. 2018.

External links[edit]