Researchers have made a new discovery about Earth’s carbon sinks. These vast ecosystems have an even greater capacity to remove CO2 from the atmosphere due to nitrogen weathering reactions from previously unknown rocks that distribute natural fertilizers around the world. The new study highlights the importance of preserving these carbon sinks to fight climate change.
Humanity has been flooding the atmosphere with carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution. Almost half of these emissions have been naturally removed from the atmosphere by land, vegetation and oceans, while the other half remains in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.
“Excess carbon is already hurting people, economies and our planet,” said Benjamin Houlton, lead author of the study. Cornell University. “But we get a free subsidy provided by Earth – a great carbon sink on land and in the ocean – and, as a company, we don’t explicitly pay for the carbon sink service. But where is this sink and how long will it last?
Houlton stressed the importance of finding sustainable alternatives to store and remove carbon from the atmosphere in order to tackle the threats of climate change.
The researchers said that background nitrogen inputs from rock weathering and physiological fixation can provide two to five times more terrestrial carbon uptake than nitrogen pollution mainly from agricultural activities and industrial.
“Previously, we thought this terrestrial carbon sink was more vulnerable. Now we suggest that due to previously undiscovered slow release nitrogen, the terrestrial carbon sink will continue to be robust. Said lead author of the study, Pawlok Dass, postdoctoral researcher at Northern Arizona University.
The researchers stressed that society needs to be vigilant because the use of fossil fuels tends to release excess nitrogen into the atmosphere. In this case, rather than functioning as a fertilizer, the nitrogen bypasses the terrestrial carbon cycles and pollutes the water bodies downstream. According to Dass, reducing excess nitrogen pollution can improve human health, the environment and the economy without harming natural and terrestrial carbon sinks.
Dass explained that biologically diverse tropical forests, mountainous regions and the rapidly changing boreal zone (the range of forests stretching from Alaska to Canada to Siberia, for example) are rich in weathering. nitrogen in rocks or in biological nitrogen fixation and that they should be conserved to preserve carbon sinks.
“Our work suggests that conserving these ecosystems, which have an intrinsic capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, is going to be vital to ensure that we do not lose the service of Earth’s terrestrial carbon sink in the future. “said Houlton. .
The study was conducted at the laboratory of the University of California, Davis and Cornell University and was published in the journal Global biogeochemical cycles.
Through Ashikha Raouf, Terre.com Editor-in-chief