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Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry

Soils and climate change
July 28, 2020

Water drops on a soil layer (Credit: Antonio Jordán, distributed via
The fate of carbon in soils is determined by the spatial, chemical, functional and temporal complexity of the soil system.

Soils are the largest active terrestrial carbon reservoir and contain more than three times more carbon than the atmosphere. Alone this fact illustrates how important soils are for the climate. Yet, much of the soil carbon dynamics is still to be explored and soil organic carbon has been coined the "dark matter of Earth system science".

In a recent publication, co-authored by our director Markus Reichstein, the complexity and beauty of the soil system has been highlighted. It is the spatial, chemical, functional and temporal complexity, combined with adaptable microbial communities, which determines the fate of carbon in the soils. Thus, under changing conditions rapid mobilization of apparently stable soil carbon is possible. Consequently, any carbon sequestration strategies should not consider soils as a mere carbon dump but rather as a sensitive and complex system.

Link to the publication
Webpage Markus Reichstein
Press release Cornell University

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