This article discusses how global warming is affecting the ability of soil to absorb carbon dioxide.
Nature is breathing. Trees inhale carbon dioxide and store that carbon in their leaves and branches. After they die, microbes in the soil gobble up their carbon-rich leftovers and exhale carbon dioxide back into the air, a process known as respiration. Rising temperatures are causing both processes to go faster. But — in an unexpected new finding — the two aren’t speeding up at the same rate. The microbes are working harder than the plants.
The effect of this growing imbalance not only puts more heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air, but it also dwindles the strength of the soil as a natural place to store carbon. “It’s highly uncertain how long, and to what degree, the land will continue to function as a robust carbon sink,” said Bond-Lamberty, lead author of a new study in the journal Nature that examines this phenomenon. “But it’s also pretty clear that the terrestrial carbon sink can’t continue indefinitely if the climate continues to change.”