Figure 1: Summer algal conditions along the US Gulf Coast. Soil organic matter is composed of soil microbes including bacteria and fungi, decaying material from once-living organisms such as plant and animal tissues, fecal material, and products formed from their decomposition. SOM is a heterogeneous mixture of materials that range in stage of decomposition from fresh plant residues to highly decomposed material known as humus. SOM is made of organic compounds that are highly enriched in carbon. Soil organic carbon (SOC) levels are directly related to the amount of organic matter contained in soil and SOC is often how organic matter is measured in soils. Figure 2: Carbon balance within the soil (brown box) is controlled by carbon inputs from photosynthesis and carbon losses by respiration. Figure 3: World map showing the quantity of SOC to 1 m depth. Figure 4: Dark colored topsoil showing high levels of SOC due to abundant plant roots and their associated soil fauna and microbes in a cultivated soil in central Iowa. The amount of C in soil represents a substantial portion of the carbon found in terrestrial ecosystems of the planet. Total C in terrestrial ecosystems is approximately 3170 gigatons (GT; 1 […]

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