Rapid Exchange Between Soil Carbon and Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Driven by Temperature Change

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Science  19 Apr 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5260, pp. 393-396
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5260.393


Comparison of 14C (carbon-14) in archived (pre-1963) and contemporary soils taken along an elevation gradient in the Sierra Nevada, California, demonstrates rapid (7 to 65 years) turnover for 50 to 90 percent of carbon in the upper 20 centimeters of soil (A horizon soil carbon). Carbon turnover times increased with elevation (decreasing temperature) along the Sierra transect. This trend was consistent with results from other locations, which indicates that temperature is a dominant control of soil carbon dynamics. When extrapolated to large regions, the observed relation between carbon turnover and temperature suggests that soils should act as significant sources or sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide in response to global temperature changes.

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