Microbes Key to Soil Carbon Capture

Microbes Identified As Playing Key Role In Soil Carbon Capture.
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Microbes Identified As Playing Key Role In Soil Carbon Capture. Source: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

According to a new study published in Nature, researchers have found that microorganisms play a leading role in soil carbon capture.

Soil Carbon Capture is Our Best Bet Against Climate Change

Carbon sinks are some of the most important natural phenomena that can help us with our fight against climate change. Some carbon sinks are easy to identify, as they stand out with lots of research supporting their usefulness. 

One of these is the Amazon Rainforest, with its many trees. However, other carbon sinks are less obvious to the naked eye, and one of them is something that you’re probably standing or sitting on right now. 

The soil beneath our feet is the largest carbon sink by far, and yet we know very little about how it works or which parts of it make up its efficacy. However, a new study into soil carbon sinks indicates it has to do with small organisms that live in it, not observable unless under a microscope. 

This new study says that microbes could play a major role in soil carbon capture throughout our world. 

How Does Soil Carbon Capture Work?

Microbes, also known as microorganisms, are tiny living things that can be seen only with a microscope. They are found everywhere in the world, from the soil to the ocean to the human body. There are millions of different types of microbes, and they play a vital role in all ecosystems.

One of the most important roles of microbes is to break down dead organic matter. This process, called decomposition, releases nutrients back into the soil or water, where other living things can reuse them. Microbes also play a role in the cycling of nutrients, such as soil carbon capture.

In addition to decomposition, microbes also play a role in the production of food. For example, some microbes are used in the production of cheese, yogurt, and beer. Microbes are also used in the production of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Microbes are essential to the health of all ecosystems. Without microbes, the Earth would not be able to support life. Microbes help to recycle nutrients, produce food, and break down pollutants. They also play a role in developing new medicines and other products.

In nature, when a death occurs in the ecosystem, microbes immediately get to work, either breaking down the material where soil carbon capture takes place. The carbon is sequestered in the ground, released into the atmosphere or feeds the plethora of organisms in the soil. 

These functions that microbes are responsible for are what are largely responsible for soil carbon capture carbon sinks are lauded for, according to the study published in Nature.

Steven Allison, a professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the study, said, “We know that microbes are important for soil health, but this is really the first paper that establishes this positive link between the efficiency of microbial metabolism and the amount of organic carbon that’s stored in soils around the world.” 

Due to soil carbon capture being such an effective means of storing carbon, conservationists and policymakers are paying increased attention to developing healthy soil prompting scientists to research how that can be achieved and what is truly responsible for the carbon being captured. 

See also: What is Carbon Capture and How Does it Work?

There Is Still Work to Be Done

However, while this development is fascinating, it leaves out what can be done to facilitate the increased efficiency of microbes in our soil. “We don’t really know what’s causing that higher growth efficiency. … Providing more nutrients to plants can help their growth and carbon storage,” said Allison, “so it could be something as simple as providing the right amount of nutrition.” 

Despite this, this area of active research shows developments by the day, so it isn’t unbelievable to think we’ll have the answers sooner rather than later. Creating the structure so that soil microorganisms can operate more effectively is a task that is of utmost importance, as soil carbon capture technology is still in its infancy and hasn’t shown results comparable to the natural carbon sinks existing already. 

This does show that the research that has been done is promising and is one step along the path towards protecting and reinvigorating our natural environment to restore it. 

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