Radiocarbon constraints imply reduced carbon uptake by soils during the 21st century

Science
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Abstract

Soil is the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir and may influence the sign and magnitude of carbon cycle-climate feedbacks. Many Earth system models (ESMs) estimate a significant soil carbon sink by 2100, yet the underlying carbon dynamics determining this response have not been systematically tested against observations. We used 14C data from 157 globally distributed soil profiles sampled to 1 m depth to show that ESMs underestimated the mean age of soil carbon by more than six-fold (430±50 years vs. 3100±1800 years). Consequently, ESMs overestimated the carbon sequestration potential of soils by nearly two-fold (40±27%). These biases suggest that ESMs must better represent carbon stabilization processes and the turnover time of slow and passive reservoirs when simulating future atmospheric CO2 dynamics.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Radiocarbon constraints imply reduced carbon uptake by soils during the 21st century
Series title Science
DOI 10.1126/science.aad4273
Volume 353
Issue 6306
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 5 p.
First page 1419
Last page 1424