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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
8-Jan-2014

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Contact: Barbara Wankerl
barbara.wankerl@tum.de
49-892-892-2562
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
@TU_Muenchen

Climate change: How does soil store CO2?

Carbon content in soil influences climate models

IMAGE: Carbon tends to bind to specific rough mineral surfaces, known as hot spots (yellow areas).

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Previous studies have established that carbon binds to tiny mineral particles. In this latest study, published in Nature Communications, researchers have shown that the surface of the minerals plays just as important a role as their size. "The carbon binds to minerals that are just a few thousandths of a millimeter in size - and it accumulates there almost exclusively on rough and angular surfaces," explains Prof. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, TUM Chair of Soil Science.

The role of microorganisms in sequestering carbon

It is presumed that the rough mineral surfaces provide an attractive habitat for microbes. These convert the carbon and play a part in binding it to minerals. "We discovered veritable hot spots with a high proportion of carbon in the soil," relates Cordula Vogel, the lead author of the study. "Furthermore, new carbon binds to areas which already have a high carbon content."

These carbon hot spots are, however, only found on around 20 percent of the mineral surfaces. It was previously assumed that carbon is evenly distributed in the soil. "Thanks to our study, we can now pin-point the soil that is especially good for sequestering CO2," continues Kögel-Knabner. "The next step is to include these findings in carbon cycle models."

IMAGE: Left: Mineral surfaces with all accumulations of carbon (yellow). Right: Mineral surfaces with new organic substance (green and magenta).

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Mass spectrometer helps to visualize molecules

The sample material used by the team was loess, a fertile agricultural soil found in all parts of the world - which makes it a very important carbon store. The researchers were able to take ultra-precise measurements using the NanoSIMS mass spectrometer. This procedure allowed them to view and compare even the most minute soil structures.

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*Source: http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/?q=emissions

Publication:

"Submicron structures provide preferential spots for carbon and nitrogen sequestration in soils": Cordula Vogel, Carsten W. Müller, Carmen Höschen, Franz Buegger, Katja Heister, Stefanie Schulz, Michael Schloter & Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, Nature Communications, DOI: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140107/ncomms3947/full/ncomms3947.html.

Contact:

Prof. Ingrid Kögel-Knabner
Technische Universität München
Chair of Soil Science
Tel.: +49 8161 71-3677
koegel@wzw.tum.de
http://www.soil-science.com/



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