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Ag soil erosion not contributing to climate change, but not helping, either

Soil erosion due to agriculture is not a net contributor to global climate change, according to researchers at UC Davis, Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and the University of Exeter, England. Previous estimates of carbon emissions from soil erosion had run as high as 13 percent of global emissions.

Erosion does not release significant amounts or carbon to the atmosphere, the researchers found. On the other hand, neither does it represent a significant ‘sink’ removing carbon from the atmosphere, and erosion is still a Bad Thing because of its other environmental impacts.

Erosion, it seems, brings subsoil to the surface and sends it downhill. On the way it picks up organic material (ie, carbon) but then gets caught up in hollows and reburied. So the process acts as a sort of carbon conveyor belt.

The researchers estimate that erosion captures the equivalent of about 1.5 percent of fossil-fuel carbon emissions.

The team managed to measure how soils move around using cesium-137, an isotope that was scattered around the landscape as a result of nuclear weapons testing decades ago. They could then estimate how much carbon should be in the soil and work out how much had been lost or gained as a result of erosion.

The results are published in the Oct. 26 issue of Science.

One Response to Ag soil erosion not contributing to climate change, but not helping, either

  1. Abisoye Emmanuel Onigemo says:

    To whom it may concern,

    Yes, erosion does not contribute to climate change! But one thing you have to know, is that, the causes of erosion come¥s from the climate change. As we have it here in Brazil, more than 70% of emission of gases comes from deflorestation and forest burning through agriculture. which directly affect the soil erosion in one way or the other. When a Forert is cleared this open ways for the next rains that are coming. When the rains meet the soil whthout vegetation cover, this will cause a run-off of soil nutrientes to another side, which may make this oil poor in nutrientes,together with this the inicial soil erosion.These we have observed in Biome Cerrado (savannah) and Biome Amazonas. We know the havoc that the soil erosion is causing. This may not contribute to climate change,but the climate change contribute to soil erosion.

    What happened to carbons released by the threas that inicially covered the area when one area is clear and this result in erosion? Sure, these threas root captured some carbons in the atmosphere and store them in the soil, in the same area they these sientists studied.

    Emmanuel.

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