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Science Must Dig Deeper to Understand Climate Change’s Full Impact, Study Shows

Science Must Dig Deeper to Understand Climate Change’s Full Impact, Study Shows

Scientists often study the relationship of global warming and topsoil because soil is an important mediator of climate change. A newly released study indicates it’s critical to consider subsoil in climate-change research, too.

A new paper in the prestigious journal Nature Communications by Professor Stephen Hart, his former graduate student Nicholas Dove and colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory details why as it reveals the findings of a 4 ½-year study of both top and subsoils.

“There have been several previous field studies that have warmed soils experimentally at the ground surface and measured changes in soil microbial communities and carbon and nutrient pools in surficial soil, but this is one of the only studies that has warmed the entire soil depth profile and made such measurements, both near the surface and deep within the soil,” Hart said. “Nicholas’ Ph.D. research has highlighted the importance of studying deep-soil processes and suggests that existing predictive models of the global climate should not simulate the soil microbial response to a warmer world as a unified one.”

Climate change has created a feedback loop between soil and the atmosphere. Globally, soil stores about twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does. As the climate warms, so does the soil. Higher temperatures mean less water, more plant death and increased decomposition, which is good for soil’s microbial communities. They consume carbon stored in the detritus and release CO2 back into the air.

To see how different microbial communities react to climate change, Hart, Dove and their colleagues mechanically warmed soil to a depth of one meter.

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