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The Effects of Changing the Carbon Cycle

The carbon cycle is made up many of the Earth’s systems that absorb and release carbon. The rate at which land and the ocean can sequester carbon will continue to keep pace with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate change is having an impact on the carbon cycle, which in turn further changes the climate, creating a vicious cycle.

While the key processes that drive flows of carbon are largely known, uncertainties remain, particularly in the magnitude of change.

The Carbon cycle

Carbon is the chemical backbone to all life on Earth. It is a key ingredient in the food that sustains us, and provides a major source of the energy to fuel our global economy.

The carbon cycle is important as it maintains a stable and balanced climate by constantly recycling carbon atoms.

On Earth, carbon is constantly exchanged between a variety of global processes and reservoirs such as the atmosphere, the ocean, terrestrial plant biomass and soil.

Soil is a vital carbon storehouse. It has the ability to sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Due to the vast scale of soil on Earth, it could be the key to balancing our climate, replenish our fresh water supplies and feed the world.

The importance of soil carbon sequestration

The amount of carbon stored in soil represents the largest portion of carbon found in terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. The total carbon in terrestrial ecosystems is approximately 3170 gigatons, whereby 80% is found in soil.

Soil carbon sequestration is a long-term process in which carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool through photosynthesis in plants. This carbon absorption drives plant growth and rich topsoil. Besides the improvement to soil health and biodiversity, this sequestration can increase climate resilience against both droughts and heavy rainfall.

The fate of the carbon cycle

As we have discussed in this blog, soil has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and so is something we should care for. The combined effects of environmental impacts from soil and land-use changes in human history will impact ecosystems, society, and our ability to mitigate climate change.

With a growing population and competition for resources, the agricultural sector has become one of the top industries of concern in leading unsustainable practices. If soils are managed poorly, soil carbon can be released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2 , having widespread impacts on the carbon cycle.

Understanding the processes of soil carbon storage through research is a priority to enable better projections of future atmospheric CO2 concentrations and associated temperatures changes.

Perhaps the solution is right below our feet?

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