PerspectiveBIOGEOCHEMISTRY

Soil age alters the global silicon cycle

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Science  04 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6508, pp. 1161-1162
DOI: 10.1126/science.abd9425

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Summary

Silicon (Si)—the second most abundant element in Earth's crust—relies largely on geological factors to control its mobilization. Thus, Si cycling through Earth's systems was often believed to be buffered from human disturbance (1). However, research over the past several decades has awakened scientists to the central role of vegetation in regulating Si availability in the biosphere (2, 3). It is now beyond doubt that human disturbance affects Si biogeochemistry and its associated impact on carbon (C) sequestration rates. Attempts to decipher how human activities (namely deforestation and agricultural expansion) influence Si cycling have left scientists to reconcile conflicting data on the importance of geochemical versus biological controls on Si biogeochemistry (4, 5). On page 1245 of this issue, de Tombeur et al. provide new insights into this debate by demonstrating the importance of soil age in regulating Si cycling (6).

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