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Researchers find arid areas absorb unexpected amounts of atmospheric carbon

EurekAlert (6-Apr-2014)

Researchers find arid areas absorb unexpected amounts of atmospheric carbon

EurekAlert (6-Apr-2014)

Researchers led by a Washington State University biologist have found that arid areas, among the biggest ecosystems on the planet, take up an unexpectedly large amount of carbon as levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere. The findings give scientists a better handle on the earth’s carbon budget—how much carbon remains in the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming, and how much gets stored in the land or ocean in other carbon-containing forms.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, come after a novel 10-year experiment in which researchers exposed plots in the Mojave Desert to elevated carbon-dioxide levels similar to those expected in 2050. The researchers then removed soil and plants down to a meter deep and measured how much carbon was absorbed.

From an optimistic point of view, the research suggests that, come 2050, arid ecosystems will be doing more than their fair share of taking earth-warming carbon out of the atmosphere. But a potential cause for concern is what happens to these ecosystems as the planet’s population grows and people look for places to develop and live.

Story Source : Washington State University

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