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Title: Higher climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon in cold than warm climates

Abstract

The projected loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere resulting from climate change is a potentially large but highly uncertain feedback to warming. The magnitude of this feedback is poorly constrained by observations and theory, and is disparately represented in Earth system models (ESMs). To assess the climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon, we calculate apparent soil carbon turnover times that reflect long-term and broad-scale rates of decomposition. Here, we show that the climatological temperature control on carbon turnover in the top metre of global soils is more sensitive in cold climates than in warm climates and argue that it is critical to capture this emergent ecosystem property in global-scale models. We present a simplified model that explains the observed high cold-climate sensitivity using only the physical scaling of soil freeze–thaw state across climate gradients. Current ESMs fail to capture this pattern, except in an ESM that explicitly resolves vertical gradients in soil climate and carbon turnover. An observed weak tropical temperature sensitivity emerges in a different model that explicitly resolves mineralogical control on decomposition. These results support projections of strong carbon–climate feedbacks from northern soils and demonstrate a method for ESMs to capture this emergent behaviour.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3]; ORCiD logo [4]
  1. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States). Earth and Environmental Sciences Div.
  2. Stockholm Univ. (Sweden). Dept. of Physical Geography & Bolin Centre of Climate Research; Stanford Univ., CA (United States). School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences
  3. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States). Climate & Global Dynamics Lab.
  4. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States). Climate & Global Dynamics Lab.; Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States). Inst. of Arctic & Alpine Research
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory-National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1489154
DOE Contract Number:  
AC02-05CH11231; FC03-97ER62402; SC0014374
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Nature Climate Change
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 7; Journal Issue: 11; Journal ID: ISSN 1758-678X
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Koven, Charles D., Hugelius, Gustaf, Lawrence, David M., and Wieder, William R. Higher climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon in cold than warm climates. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE3421.
Koven, Charles D., Hugelius, Gustaf, Lawrence, David M., & Wieder, William R. Higher climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon in cold than warm climates. United States. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE3421.
Koven, Charles D., Hugelius, Gustaf, Lawrence, David M., and Wieder, William R. Mon . "Higher climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon in cold than warm climates". United States. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE3421.
@article{osti_1489154,
title = {Higher climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon in cold than warm climates},
author = {Koven, Charles D. and Hugelius, Gustaf and Lawrence, David M. and Wieder, William R.},
abstractNote = {The projected loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere resulting from climate change is a potentially large but highly uncertain feedback to warming. The magnitude of this feedback is poorly constrained by observations and theory, and is disparately represented in Earth system models (ESMs). To assess the climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon, we calculate apparent soil carbon turnover times that reflect long-term and broad-scale rates of decomposition. Here, we show that the climatological temperature control on carbon turnover in the top metre of global soils is more sensitive in cold climates than in warm climates and argue that it is critical to capture this emergent ecosystem property in global-scale models. We present a simplified model that explains the observed high cold-climate sensitivity using only the physical scaling of soil freeze–thaw state across climate gradients. Current ESMs fail to capture this pattern, except in an ESM that explicitly resolves vertical gradients in soil climate and carbon turnover. An observed weak tropical temperature sensitivity emerges in a different model that explicitly resolves mineralogical control on decomposition. These results support projections of strong carbon–climate feedbacks from northern soils and demonstrate a method for ESMs to capture this emergent behaviour.},
doi = {10.1038/NCLIMATE3421},
journal = {Nature Climate Change},
issn = {1758-678X},
number = 11,
volume = 7,
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {10}
}

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    Works referencing / citing this record:

    The influence of soil communities on the temperature sensitivity of soil respiration
    journal, August 2018