Energy / Climate Change

October 23, 2016


Research Institutes Collaborate to Create Global Map of CO2 Emissions from Soil

Keywords: Climate Change Ecosystems / Biodiversity 

Image by Picography.

The Japanese Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute announced on March 16, 2016, that it has created a global map of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the soil to the atmosphere, through collaborative research with the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany. The research team established a model using the latest datasets, including observational data of CO2 emissions from the soil at more than 1,600 sites around the world.

It is estimated the amount of CO2 emitted from the soil to the atmosphere, stemming from the decomposition of fallen leaves and respiration in the roots of plants, to be at least ten times the amount emitted from the consumption of fossil fuels. Up to now, however, estimates were limited by a lack of adequate observational data for CO2 emissions from the soil; thus, the total global emissions were not well known.

The latest estimates of total global CO2 emissions from soil are 91 petagrams of carbon ("peta" means magnitude 10 to the 15th power, a million billion), the mean value from 1965 to 2012. This amount is about six percent less than estimated in a previous study (the assessed value in 2008, as reported in the science journal "Nature" in 2010). This difference is equivalent to the annual atmospheric CO2 emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels.

The estimates also suggested that, over the years, the amount of CO2 emitted from the soil has been on the rise, because of the effect of rising atmospheric temperatures caused by climate change. The latest estimates are expected to help better understand the Earth's carbon cycle and to improve the accuracy of future predictions of climate change.