Feeds

Global warming dirt-carbon peril models are wrong, say boffins

Greenhouse experiments show reduced greenhouse effect

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The world may not be doomed after all, according to top American dirt scientists. Soil-dwelling microbes, expected in climate models to go into CO2-spewing "overdrive" as the world warms, refused to do so in experiments.

Researchers started a greenhouse warming experiment in Alaska's boreal forest in 2005. Credit: Steven D Allison

This is how you create a greenhouse effect.

According to a statement released this week by the US National Science Foundation, which funded the research:

Conventional scientific wisdom holds that even a few degrees of human-caused climate warming will shift fungi and bacteria that consume soil-based carbon into overdrive, and that their growth will accelerate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

This conventional wisdom now appears to be wrong, as research conducted by University of California ecologist Steve Allison have shown that in fact the carbon-eating microbes' planet-busting activities are reduced, not increased, by warmth.

Allison developed a new climate model based on experimental results showing what happened in soils which had been warmed up artificially in greenhouses over a period of several years. There is an initial increase in microbial emissions, which has been the basis for existing models, but after a while the microbes "overheat" and their numbers - and CO2 output - plunge.

"When we developed a model based on the actual biology of soil microbes, we found that soil carbon may not be lost to the atmosphere as the climate warms," Allison says. "Conventional ecosystem models that didn't include enzymes did not make the same predictions."

The flow of carbon in and out of the Earth's soils is thought to be one of the biggest factors in the amount of greenhouse effect experienced by the planet, so the new results could have a major effect on climate forecasts and related government policies. Allison cautions that more research is needed, but seems confident that the microbe menace is not as severe as had been thought.

"We need to develop more models to include microbe diversity," he says. "But the general principle that's important in our model is the decline of carbon dioxide production after an initial increase."

Allison and his colleagues' research appears online this week in Nature Geoscience. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.