We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Advertisement
Soil Analysis Technique Could Aid Climate Change Predictions
News

Soil Analysis Technique Could Aid Climate Change Predictions

Soil Analysis Technique Could Aid Climate Change Predictions
News

Soil Analysis Technique Could Aid Climate Change Predictions

Data analyzed for the study came from soil profiles, such as this one, gathered by the National Ecological Observatory Network. Credit: National Ecological Observatory Network.
Read time:
 

Want a FREE PDF version of This News Story?

Complete the form below and we will email you a PDF version of "Soil Analysis Technique Could Aid Climate Change Predictions"

First Name*
Last Name*
Email Address*
Country*
Company Type*
Job Function*
Would you like to receive further email communication from Technology Networks?

Technology Networks Ltd. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy

A new way of analyzing the chemical composition of soil organic matter will help scientists predict how soils store carbon — and how soil carbon may affect climate in the future, says a Baylor University researcher.

A study by scientists from Iowa State University and Baylor University, published in the academic journal Nature Geoscience, used an archive of data on soils from a wide range of environments across North America — including tundra, tropical rainforests, deserts and prairies — to find patterns to better understand the formation of soil organic matter, which is mostly composed of residues left by dead plants and microorganisms.


Researchers analyzed samples of 42 soils from archives of the National Ecological Observatory Network and samples taken from additional sites, representing all of the major soil types on the continent.


The soils were analyzed by William C. Hockaday, Ph.D., associate professor of geosciences at Baylor University, and visiting scientist Chenglong Ye, a postdoctoral scientist at Nanjing Agricultural University, in the Molecular Biogeochemistry Lab at Baylor. They used a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which allowed them to analyze the chemical structure and composition of natural organic molecules in the soil.


“Soils are a foundation of society by providing food, clean water and clean air,” Hockaday said. “Soils also have a major role in climate change as one of the largest reservoirs of carbon on the planet. Even so, the chemical makeup of this carbon has been debated by scientists for over 100 years.”


“With this study, we wanted to address the questions of whether organic matter is chemically similar across environments or if it varies predictably across environments,” said Steven Hall, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology at Iowa State.


The study revealed patterns in soil organic matter chemistry that held true across climates. Understanding these patterns, or rules for how and why organic matter forms and persists in soil, will help scientists predict how soils in various ecosystems store carbon. Carbon can contribute to climate change when released from soil into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. An improved understanding of what kinds of soil carbon exist in different environments can paint a clearer picture of how soil carbon may affect climate and how future climate changes may affect the reservoir of soil carbon, researchers said.


“This study brought together a strong team of scientists, and for me, it was the first time to consider chemical patterns at a continental scale,” Hockaday said. “It is exciting and gratifying when you inform a long-standing debate and offer an explanation of a major pattern that exists in nature.”

Reference
Hall SJ, Ye C, Weintraub SR, Hockaday WC. Molecular trade-offs in soil organic carbon composition at continental scale. Nature Geoscience. Published online September 14, 2020:1-6. doi:10.1038/s41561-020-0634-x

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Advertisement