“There is about two and a half times more carbon in the soil than there is in the atmosphere, and the concern right now is that a lot of that carbon is going to end up in the atmosphere,” said lead author Mark Bradford, assistant professor in the UGA Odum School of Ecology. “What our finding suggests is that a positive feedback between warming and a loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere is likely to occur but will be less than currently predicted.”
Bradford and his team, which included researchers from the University of New Hampshire, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Duke University and Colorado State University, found evidence to support both hypotheses and revealed a third, previously unaccounted for explanation: The abundance of soil microbes decreased under warm conditions.
“It is often said that in a handful of dirt, there are somewhere around 10,000 species and millions of individual bacteria and fungi,” said study co-author Matthew Wallenstein, a research scientist at
… “Although our results suggest that the impact of soil microbes on global warming will be less than is currently predicted,” Bradford said, “even a small change in atmospheric carbon is going to alter the way our world works and how our ecosystems function.”Metaphorical photo alert! Rust and dirt on a baking plate, shot by Roger McLassus, Wikimedia Commons (where it was a candidate for picture of the year in 2006), under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2