Scientists from the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and Univ. of California, Berkeleyhave demonstrated that plants and soils could release large amounts of carbon dioxide as global climate warms. This finding contrasts with the expectation that plants and soils will absorb carbon dioxide and is important because that additional carbon release from land surface could be a potent positive feedback that exacerbates climate warming.
The study was published in a Journal of Climate paper.
"We have been counting on plants and soils to soak up and store much of the carbon we're releasing when we burn fossil fuels," Paul Higgins, a study co-author and associate director of the AMS Policy Program, says. "However, our results suggest the opposite possibility. Plants and soils could react to warming by releasing additional carbon dioxide, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations and leading to even more climate warming."
The research team used a computer model of Earth's land surface to examine how carbon storage might react to a warmer planet with higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The experimental design helps quantify the possible range in future terrestrial carbon storage.