During the last several thousand years the semi-arid, cold climate of the Russian steppe formed highly fertile soils rich in organic carbon and calcium (classified as Chernozems in the Russian system). Analysis of archived soil samples collected in Kemannaya Steppe Preserve in 1920, 1947, 1970, and fresh samples collected in 1998 indicated that the native steppe Chernozems, however, lost 17-28 kg m-2 of calcium in the form of carbonates in 1970-1998. Here we demonstrate that the loss of calcium was caused by fundamental shift in the steppe hydrologic balance. Previously unleached soils where precipitation was less than potential evapotranspiration are now being leached due to increased precipitation and, possibly, due to decreased actual evapotranspiration. Because this region receives low levels of acidic deposition, the dissolution of carbonates involves the consumption of atmospheric CO2. Our estimates indicate that this climatically driven terrestrial sink of atmospheric CO2 is ???2.1-7.4 g C m-2 a-1. In addition to the net sink of atmospheric carbon, leaching of pedogenic carbonates significantly amplified seasonal amplitude of CO2 exchange between atmosphere and steppe soil. Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Climatically driven loss of calcium in steppe soil as a sink for atmospheric carbon