REPORT: Soil contains much more CO2 than anticipated
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/27/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
A study from the University of Wisconsin warns that carbon deposits in the soil may be much more significant than previously estimated, thus suggesting that human activity could release more carbon than anticipated into the atmosphere.
The soil beneath our feet may contain more carbon than previously estimated, increasing the impact of human activity on climate change,
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Ancient soils in the American Midwest have been found to be richer in carbon than previously thought. Although these soils are deeper than most soils that are tested, human activity could disturb the soil, releasing additional carbon into the atmosphere.
Scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison say that mining, agriculture, and deforestation could lead to a significant increase in soil-trapped carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change.
The study was published in the journal Nature Geoscience and it holds that deep soils also contain vast reservoirs of carbon, which could be released if disturbed.
What could be most astounding however is not the presence of such carbon deposits, but rather the surprise that it's there. Nobody should be surprised.
Biomass forms on the surface, then dies and is covered by dust and other layers of biomass. Eventually this material ends up below the surface of the Earth. Given enough time and pressure, such biomass turns into coal, oil, and natural gas. This process is continual and has been happening since the creation of life on the planet.
In short, oil and other fossil fuel products are constantly being created and renewed by nature, just far more slowly than we presently extract them.
The problem occurs when we burn these fuels, releasing the carbon stored in this biomass from prehistoric times. Trees and other vegetation work wonderfully to store carbon in the atmosphere. Trees and plants use carbon dioxide as food, and give off oxygen in exchange.
As long as this intake process is balanced over time, carbon levels in the atmosphere remain net-neutral and have little impact on global climate change. However, when we release vast amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, while returning only a fraction back to the Earth, we increase the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere which has a warming effect.
Scientists now worry that humans do not need to burn fossil fuels to increase CO2 levels, they simply need to disturb the soil. However, humans have been disturbing the soil and burning biomass since the beginning of recorded history. Such activities in moderate amounts should be of no concern. However, modern industrial-scale projects which tear up many acres of soil at a time may have a much more significant CO2 impact than previously considered.
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