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CO₂ Emissions from Soil in Response to Climatic Warming Are Overestimated: The Decomposition of Old Soil Organic Matter Is Tolerant of Temperature

Jari Liski, Hannu Ilvesniemi, Annikki Mäkelä and Carl Johan Westman
Ambio
Vol. 28, No. 2 (Mar., 1999), pp. 171-174
Published by: Springer on behalf of Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4314871
Page Count: 4
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CO₂ Emissions from Soil in Response to Climatic Warming Are Overestimated: The Decomposition of Old Soil Organic Matter Is Tolerant of Temperature
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Abstract

The storage of organic carbon in soil is predicted to decrease with global warming because the decomposition of soil organic matter is expected to accelerate relative to the net primary production (NPP) of vegetation. This decrease would substantially increase the atmospheric CO2 concentration because soil contains twice as much C as the present atmosphere and the decomposed C from soil will be released to the atmosphere. These predictions of the decrease in soil C storage are, however, largely dependent on the implied assumption that the decomposition of all soil organic matter is as sensitive to temperature as is the decomposition of young litter. We used measurements of the amount and age of soil C and the decomposition of litter on temperature gradients and a simple model describing soil C dynamics to show that the decomposition of old soil organic matter is resistant to changes in temperature. Accordingly, in response to climatic warming, we estimate decomposition to accelerate significantly less than previously expected, and predict that the C storage of boreal forest soils will increase.

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