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Global Warming Plus Natural Bacteria Could Release Vast Carbon Deposits Currently Stored in Arctic Soil

Microorganisms Break Down Toxic Pesticide

Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make global temperatures rise. By studying soil cores from the Arctic , scientists have discovered that this rise in temperature stimulates the growth of microorganisms that can break down long term stores of carbon, releasing them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This will lead to further increases in global temperatures.

Carbon is held in soil either in material that is easily degraded by chemical and bacterial action (labile soil carbon), or in material that is less easily degraded by microorganisms (resistant soil carbon). About one third of the world's soil carbon is located in high latitudes such as the Arctic , and much of this effectively locked away in recalcitrant stores.

If this carbon were ever released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, the concentration of this 'green-house gas' would increase considerably, leading to substantial increase in global warming.

The question that researchers in Austria , Russia and Finland asked was whether increasing global temperatures that are already predicted could enable microorganisms to use this carbon. Their results are published in this week's edition of Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.

The researchers incubated soil cores at 2 o C, 12 o C and 24 o C. they found that resistant soil carbon was preferentially respired by arctic microbes at higher temperatures, presumably due to a shift in microbial populations.

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