This is essentially no analysis, simply an index to recent research on the the matter of the soils reservoir for Carbon, and a little reaction.
To begin, here’s the part of the Carbon Cycle that’s involved:
Should this production increase, particularly if CO2 uptake of terrestrial plants wane, the 45% sink we’ve fortunately lived with could lessen, making our situation worse.
Here are some papers, including reports of large scale experiments. I follow with some thoughts and questions.
- T. W. Crowther, et al, “Quantifying global soil carbon losses in response to warming”, Nature, 540, 1 December 2016, 104-108, with supplementary information.
- N. van Gestel, et al, “Predicting soil carbon loss with warming”, Nature, 554, 22 February 2018, E4-E8, including reply from T. W. Crowther, et al.
- A. F. Talhelm, et al, “Elevated carbon dioxide and ozone alter productivity and ecosystem carbon content in northern temperate forests”, Global Change Biology (2014) 20, 2492-2504.
- A. Baccini, W. Walker, L. Carvalho, M. Farina, D. Sulla-Menashe, R. A. Houghton, “Tropical forests are a net carbon source based on above ground measurements of gain and loss ”, Science, 28 Sep 2017: eaam5962, DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5962.
- J. Smith, “Measuring Earth’s carbon cycle”, introduction to special issue, Science, 13 October 2017: 358(6360), 186-187, DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6360.186
- K. J. van Groenigen, X. Qi, C. W. Osenberg, Y. Luo, B. A. Hungate, “Faster decomposition under increased atmospheric CO2 limits soil Carbon storage”, ScienceExpress, 24 April 2014, Page 1, 10.1126/science.1249534.
- C. E. Hicks Pries, C. Castanha, R. Porras, M. S. Torn, “The whole-soil Carbon flux in response to warming”, Science, 9 March 2017, 10.1126/science.aal1319.
- J. M. Melillo, S.D. Frey, K. M. DeAngelis, W. J. Werner, M. J. Bernard, F. P. Bowles, G. Pold, M. A. Knorr, A. S. Grandy, “Long-term pattern and magnitude of soil Carbon feedback to the climate system in a warming world”, Science, 358, 6 October 2017, 101-105.
- D. B. Metcalfe, “Microbial change in warming soils: Long-term reorganization of microbial communities leads to pulses in Carbon release”, Science, 6 October 2017, 358(6359), 41-42, with supplement.
I am particularly intrigued with Metcalfe, and van Groenigen, Osenberg, Luo, and Hungate. Recent studies examining options to rebalance the Carbon Cycle by means such as enhanced weathering and afforestation by planting large numbers of plants like Jatropha curcas (see more) have revealed the resulting albedo change and moisture capture can change the climate of entire regions. If microbial communities reorganize in a big way, whether in temperate forests, in deserts, or in tundra, could they by themselves achieve change of regional climate? Could they be bioengineered? Do we understand that ecosystem well enough to predict how it would develop? Are there nonlinear surprises lurking there?