GR: The potential for runaway global warming is growing. This is an important article that we shouldn’t ignored. Of course, one might argue that when you are chained across the railroad tracks, you might as well ignore the approaching train. If that’s where we are, perhaps its time for the Champaign.
“At a time when a huge pulse of uncertainty has been injected into the global project to stop the planet’s warming, scientists have just raised the stakes even further.
“In a massive new study published Wednesday in the influential journal Nature, no less than 50 authors from around the world document a so-called climate system “feedback” that, they say, could make global warming considerably worse over the coming decades.
“That feedback involves the planet’s soils, which are a massive repository of carbon due to the plants and roots that have grown and died in them, in many cases over vast time periods (plants pull in carbon from the air through photosynthesis and use it to fuel their growth). It has long been feared that as warming increases, the microorganisms living in these soils would respond by very naturally upping their rate of respiration, a process that in turn releases carbon dioxide or methane, leading greenhouse gases.
“It’s this concern that the new study validates. “Our analysis provides empirical support for the long-held concern that rising temperatures stimulate the loss of soil C to the atmosphere, driving a positive land C–climate feedback that could accelerate planetary warming over the twenty-first century,” the paper reports.
Here’s some great #IYS2015 snow day activities for kids: http://t.co/d8pDqQptkA
The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative was launched in September 2011 and is open to all those interested in developing a coherent platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy and sustainable land management for the protection and enhancement of ecosystem services.
GR: We must remember that without soil, the Earth would be as barren and lifeless as the moon. Soils host at least one-fourth of Earth’s biodiversity: a tablespoon of soil holds more creatures than the whole pop. on earth http://t.co/BZGX3tsa4j.
“It’s the Goldilocks principle. All species, including plants, animals and fungi, are uniquely adapted to a specific combination of climate and environmental conditions that they need to grow, reproduce and thrive – things need to be “just right. If the environment changes, species have two choices: they can either stay where they are and adapt to the new conditions, or they can move to more suitable places.
“Plants, being rooted to the earth, have a limited ability to respond to environmental change. It can take a long time to adapt to new conditions, so it’s difficult for plants to respond quickly to relatively rapid changes that happen around them, like those projected in some climate models. Plants can’t pick up and move either; they can only send forth their seeds in hopes of finding the Goldilocks conditions perfect for growth and reproduction. For many plant species, this dispersal will likely not happen far enough or fast enough to keep pace with projected changes in climate, which means they are at risk of being left behind. This is especially true in today’s increasingly fragmented landscapes” (Source: www.natureconservancy.ca).
GR: I think we need a national commitment to learn how to help plants migrate to new locations. Both the value and the variability of microclimate, soil, topography, and biological interaction are limiting factors for plants. Along a route over a mountain or across a valley, the abundance of each species will change along with the changing factors. Repeat the measurements next year and there will be differences. Storms, invasive species, human activity, and even evolution can alter conditions. We will need an army of observers at work for years to succeed. If we were wiser, we would be studying nature instead of fighting wars and bailing out big banks. We must applaud Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute’s efforts. Perhaps they can save a few species.
A new study shows that removing native forest and starting intensive agriculture can accelerate erosion so dramatically that in a few decades as much soil is lost as would naturally occur over thousands of years.
GR: Add soil erosion to the top five human impacts: Construction, invasive species, toxic wastes (including CO2), soil erosion, and harvesting (farming, fishing, grazing, hunting, logging, and mining). The five are hard to separate, and they all relate to human population growth and migration.
Deforestation in the Amazon leads to a substantial loss in microbial biodiversity potentially reducing the ecological resilience of affected areas, report researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
GR: Soil microorganisms are essential for ecosystem stability and productivity. They are subject to damage from deforestation, grazing, fire, and of course construction. Recovery requires protection from further damage.
Beneath the pavement of the street and the concrete of the sidewalk lie the corpses of tiny creatures by millions entombed unknown and unremembered.
“When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence” (Wilson, 2010). Continue reading →
The Role of Soil Microorganisms in Desert Ecosystems
There would be no life on the land if there was no soil.
“When you thrust a shovel into the soil or tear off a piece of coral, you are, godlike, cutting through an entire world. You have crossed a hidden frontier known to very few. Immediately close at hand, around and beneath our feet, lies the least explored part of the planet’s surface. It is also the most vital place on Earth for human existence” (Wilson, 2010).
Biological Soil Crusts
Biological Soil Crust (Brown stipplescale) growing in a rocky area in the Great Basin Desert.
In sunny desert environments, various species of algae, cyanobacteria, microfungi, lichens, and bryophytes form thin crusts over the surface of the ground. The crusts protect the soil from erosion, enrich its composition, and enhance plant growth. The crusts are among the most important components of desert ecosystems.
Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are quite fragile. If they are damaged, soils lose moisture and nutrients and become susceptible to erosion and invasion by alien plants. BSCs are susceptible to considerable damage by livestock (e.g., Brotherson et al. 1983). Recovery of BSCs at some sites can occur within 20 years (Anderson et al. 1982), but most studies have concluded that longer periods are required (e.g., Jeffries and Klopatec 1987), and that full recovery can require centuries (Belnap 1993). Continue reading →