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      Soil carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change: a critical re-examination to identify the true and the false

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      European Journal of Soil Science

      Wiley-Blackwell

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          Stability of organic carbon in deep soil layers controlled by fresh carbon supply.

          The world's soils store more carbon than is present in biomass and in the atmosphere. Little is known, however, about the factors controlling the stability of soil organic carbon stocks and the response of the soil carbon pool to climate change remains uncertain. We investigated the stability of carbon in deep soil layers in one soil profile by combining physical and chemical characterization of organic carbon, soil incubations and radiocarbon dating. Here we show that the supply of fresh plant-derived carbon to the subsoil (0.6-0.8 m depth) stimulated the microbial mineralization of 2,567 +/- 226-year-old carbon. Our results support the previously suggested idea that in the absence of fresh organic carbon, an essential source of energy for soil microbes, the stability of organic carbon in deep soil layers is maintained. We propose that a lack of supply of fresh carbon may prevent the decomposition of the organic carbon pool in deep soil layers in response to future changes in temperature. Any change in land use and agricultural practice that increases the distribution of fresh carbon along the soil profile could however stimulate the loss of ancient buried carbon.
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            A handful of carbon.

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              Carbon losses from all soils across England and Wales 1978-2003.

              More than twice as much carbon is held in soils as in vegetation or the atmosphere, and changes in soil carbon content can have a large effect on the global carbon budget. The possibility that climate change is being reinforced by increased carbon dioxide emissions from soils owing to rising temperature is the subject of a continuing debate. But evidence for the suggested feedback mechanism has to date come solely from small-scale laboratory and field experiments and modelling studies. Here we use data from the National Soil Inventory of England and Wales obtained between 1978 and 2003 to show that carbon was lost from soils across England and Wales over the survey period at a mean rate of 0.6% yr(-1) (relative to the existing soil carbon content). We find that the relative rate of carbon loss increased with soil carbon content and was more than 2% yr(-1) in soils with carbon contents greater than 100 g kg(-1). The relationship between rate of carbon loss and carbon content is irrespective of land use, suggesting a link to climate change. Our findings indicate that losses of soil carbon in England and Wales--and by inference in other temperate regions-are likely to have been offsetting absorption of carbon by terrestrial sinks.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                European Journal of Soil Science
                Wiley-Blackwell
                13510754
                February 2011
                February 2011
                : 62
                : 1
                : 42-55
                Article
                10.1111/j.1365-2389.2010.01342.x
                5e190156-8563-4df1-99b7-d02451337b82
                © 2011

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