Soils may take in far less carbon than simulations predict
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A natural ally against global warming may provide far less aid than previously hoped.
Researchers estimate that the planet’s soils will soak up about 40 percent less carbon by the end of the century than environmental simulations have predicted. That means the atmosphere in 2100 would hold an extra 4 ½ years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning at current rates, the researchers report in the Sept. 23 Science.
“Future climate change may be underestimated,” says study coauthor Yujie He, a carbon cycle researcher at the University of California, Irvine. “Whatever mitigation we should do, we should do it faster.”
Soils are the largest land-based reservoir of organic carbon on the planet, storing around 1,500 billion metric tons of organic carbon — about twice the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. When a