The Impact of Agricultural Soil Erosion on the Global Carbon Cycle

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Science  26 Oct 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5850, pp. 626-629
DOI: 10.1126/science.1145724

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Agricultural soil erosion is thought to perturb the global carbon cycle, but estimates of its effect range from a source of 1 petagram per year–1 to a sink of the same magnitude. By using caesium-137 and carbon inventory measurements from a large-scale survey, we found consistent evidence for an erosion-induced sink of atmospheric carbon equivalent to approximately 26% of the carbon transported by erosion. Based on this relationship, we estimated a global carbon sink of 0.12 (range 0.06 to 0.27) petagrams of carbon per year–1 resulting from erosion in the world's agricultural landscapes. Our analysis directly challenges the view that agricultural erosion represents an important source or sink for atmospheric CO2.

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