Globally, soil organic matter (SOM) contains more than three times as much carbon as either the atmosphere or terrestrial vegetation. Yet it remains largely unknown why some SOM persists for millennia whereas other SOM decomposes readily—and this limits our ability to predict how soils will respond to climate change. Recent analytical and experimental advances have demonstrated that molecular structure alone does not control SOM stability: in fact, environmental and biological controls predominate. Here we propose ways to include this understanding in a new generation of experiments and soil carbon models, thereby improving predictions of the SOM response to global warming. Understanding soil biogeochemistry is essential to the stewardship of ecosystem services provided by soils, such as soil fertility (for food, fibre and fuel production), water quality, resistance to erosion and climate mitigation through reduced feedbacks to climate change. Soils store at least three times as much carbon (in SOM) as is found in either the atmosphere or in living plants . This major pool of organic carbon is sensitive to changes in climate or local environment, but how and on what timescale will it respond to such changes? The feedbacks between soil organic carbon and climate are not
Nature – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 5, 2011
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