Environmental Science Division (EVS)a Division of Argonne National Laboratory

The outsized role of soil microbes

September 8, 2017

Many complexities of the carbon sequestration process remain poorly understood, despite years of research and the significant impact of this process on global climate.

Now, three scientists, including EVS senior terrestrial ecologist Julie Jastrow, have proposed a new approach to better understand the role of soil organic matter in long-term carbon storage and its response to changes in global climate and atmospheric chemistry. The trio published their ideas in a recent Nature Microbiology article.

“Soil organic matter specialists long believed that remnants of decayed plant matter were the principal components of stabilized soil carbon,” said Chao Liang from the Institute of Applied Ecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, lead author of the Nature Microbiology article and a former postdoctoral scientist at Argonne. “But evolving analytical approaches have led researchers to shift toward the view that dead microbial biomass and other microbial residues could contribute even more significantly to stable carbon pools.”

Read the full article by Argonne's Steve Koppes.

The soil microbial carbon pump (MCP) moves carbon derived from microbial anabolism into soil where it can become stabilized by the entombing effect. The yin-yang symbol represents a key part of soil MCP that links aboveground vegetation to belowground soil, and creates a sense of movement to illustrate that the movement is driven, but driven differently, by fungi and bacteria.
The soil microbial carbon pump (MCP) moves carbon derived from microbial anabolism into soil where it can become stabilized by the entombing effect. The yin-yang symbol represents a key part of soil MCP that links aboveground vegetation to belowground soil, and creates a sense of movement to illustrate that the movement is driven, but driven differently, by fungi and bacteria. [Source: Xuefeng Zhu]
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portrait of Julie Jastrow