Agricultural soil erosion is thought to perturb the global carbon cycle, but estimates of its effect range from a source of 1 petagram per year -1 to a sink of the same magnitude. By using caesium-137 and carbon inventory measurements from a large-scale survey, we found consistent evidence for an erosion-induced sink of atmospheric carbon equivalent to approximately 26% of the carbon transported by erosion. Based on this relationship, we estimated a global carbon sink of 0.12 (range 0.06 to 0.27) petagrams of carbon per year-1 resulting from erosion in the world's agricultural landscapes. Our analysis directly challenges the view that agricultural erosion represents an important source or sink for atmospheric CO2.
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The impact of agricultural soil erosion on the global carbon cycle