Permafrost melt could cause microbes to release 40 BILLION more tons of CO2 into the atmosphere than previously thought, a new study says
- The study assesses the effects of microbes that feed on plant-produced carbon
- Permafrost melts and higher temperatures will extend the life of the plant
- A longer lifespan of plants causes microbes to breathe more CO2
- As a result, 40 billion tons more CO2 is released into the atmosphere than expected
- Permafrost melt is already predicted to release 50 to 100 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere
New estimates provide a worrying picture of how much melting permafrost will affect global CO2 levels.
A new study published in Nature Geoscience of Umea University researchers say that continuous permafrost melting will accelerate a process called rhizosphere priming that was previously unknown when calculating the effects of permafrost loss on rising CO2 levels.
Rhizosphere priming is a change in the degradation rates of soil organic matter, such as carbon or nitrogen, and is caused by the plant’s root activity
According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, average temperatures in Arctic Siberia in June were more than 5 ° C above normal. A new study found that Siberia’s recent heat wave has increased 600 times as a result of man-made climate change
Warmer temperatures in Arctic regions will lead to more plant life and therefore increase the number of microbes that feed on the carbon emitted from plant roots, the study said.
Those microbes also release CO2 because they breathe to live and, according to the study, under the influence of added permafrost melt, they will increase the respiration of microbes by as much as 12 percent.
According to the researchers, that will translate into another 40 million tons of CO2 over the next 80 years.
Permafrost thawing is estimated to release between 50 and 100 billion tons of CO2 over the next 80 years, independent of the estimate of 40 billion tons that researchers predict.
The study outlines a type of dangerous feedback loop in which warmer temperatures and permafrost melt lead to more roots for microbes to eat, increasing carbon emissions and fueling warmer temperatures.
A heat wave in Siberia led to a wave of forest fires (photo) pouring millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further enhancing the effect of climate change
“These new findings demonstrate the importance of taking into account small-scale ecological interactions, such as the priming effect, when modeling global greenhouse gas emissions,” said Birgit Wild, assistant professor at Stockholm University. said in a statement.
The findings also come with particularly harrowing timing because a record-breaking heat wave in Siberia, where temperatures have reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit, has accelerated permafrost melt.
Temperatures also caused forest fires across the region, which were three times the size in April.