, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 7-20

Soil respiration and the global carbon cycle

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Abstract

Soil respiration is the primary path by which CO2fixed by land plants returns to the atmosphere. Estimated at approximately 75 × 1015gC/yr, this large natural flux is likely to increase due changes in the Earth's condition. The objective of this paper is to provide a brief scientific review for policymakers who are concerned that changes in soil respiration may contribute to the rise in CO2in Earth's atmosphere. Rising concentrations of CO2in the atmosphere will increase the flux of CO2from soils, while simultaneously leaving a greater store of carbon in the soil. Traditional tillage cultivation and rising temperature increase the flux of CO2from soils without increasing the stock of soil organic matter. Increasing deposition of nitrogen from the atmosphere may lead to the sequestration of carbon in vegetation and soils. The response of the land biosphere to simultaneous changes in all of these factors is unknown, but a large increase in the soil carbon pool seems unlikely to moderate the rise in atmospheric CO2during the next century.