PerspectiveEcology

Microbial change in warming soils

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Science  06 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6359, pp. 41-42
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7325

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Summary

Soils are the largest single terrestrial source of carbon dioxide (CO2), but these emissions are highly sensitive to a range of factors associated with climate change and human land use (1). Researchers have long sought to better understand the underlying drivers of soil CO2 emissions, but the duration of experiments is all too often constrained by project deadlines and personnel contracts, hampering our ability to understand and predict the many gradual but important processes that occur in soils (2). On page 101 of this issue, Melillo et al. (3) report on an intriguing 26-year record of soil respiration responses to warming in a temperate forest. The results from this unusually long time series highlight both the potential pitfalls of drawing hasty conclusions from short-term studies and the importance of long-term experiments in ecosystem and climate science.