Soil’s Carbon Emissions Causing Much More Damage Than Scientists Thought



Not too many people think of soil as being dangerous to the earth. Thanks to a 26-year study, however, soil’s carbon emissions could trigger disastrous global temperature rises. Soil is typically evaluated based on two features: fertility and texture. Now, it seems carbon evaluations are a necessity as well.

According to The Guardian, warming soils are releasing much more carbon into the earth’s atmosphere than scientists originally thought, which might cause a damaging feedback mechanism that increases global temperatures and carbon emissions.

The study, published in a report in the peer-review journal, Science, is one of the largest of its kind. Researchers took a look at plots of soil in areas of Massachusetts for 26 years and experimented with heating some of those plots with underground cables.

Within the first 10 years of the experiments, there was a strong increase in the carbon emissions from the heated soil plots. From 1991 (when the experiment began), the soil plots lost roughly 17% of the carbon it was storing.

“If these findings hold more widely across major terrestrial ecosystems, then a much greater portion of the global soil carbon store could be vulnerable to decomposition and release of carbon dioxide under global warming than previously thought,” said Daniel Metcalfe, of Sweden’s Lund University.

Another study published in two overlapping papers in Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, and Global Change Biology, it’s emphasized that more research is needed to determine how soil, if managed properly, can actually help fight global warming.

“Many people think of the soil as just dirt,” said Susan Crow, an ecology professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management (NREM) and co-author of both papers. “But caring for the land by maintaining or rebuilding organic matter, rich in carbon and essential for the life of soil, is a win-win for building resilience in our landscapes and communities through protection of food security, reduced erosion and water pollution, and improved drought tolerance.”

Only 1% of the earth’s water is actually sustainable for drinking, but if the carbon emissions continue to increase so much, that could mean disastrous results for the rest of the water supply and for the entire global population.

One way to help better control the carbon emissions coming from soil is to use high quality equipment when working with soil. Tungsten carbide, for example, comes in over a dozen different grades that can all be sued for various applications, including to bring durability to soil planter scrapers.

According to Tri-State Neighbor, some planters and drills provider opener scrapers to keep soil buildup but that can affect the planting depth and accuracy of the agricultural equipment.

“An effective scraper keeps the disc clean and helps the seed be planted at the right depth,” said Rob Rouse, co-owner of Air Design Inc. with his wife Keren. “Tungsten carbide is extremely durable, long-lasting and provides a more effective scraping edge.”

“As we learn more about the soil under our feet, we can be better equipped to make decisions that will help us grow food, protect natural ecosystems, and combat climate change,” added Rebecca Ryals, study co-author and agricultural ecologist.

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