Soils and Greenhouse Gas: Why and where?

Ground to Sky

Soils are an important part of the complex and carefully balanced chemical cycles that keep the planet functioning in a manner that is comfortable to humans and human development. Soils are stores of key nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus which they pass on to plants and microorganisms to use. Most soils receive nutrients from elsewhere; from dead plant and animal matter, from the atmosphere, from rivers and groundwater, from the bedrock below and from animals moving about.

Some nutrients are used by microorganisms to produce or consume greenhouse gases. Organisms that live in the soil need a range of nutrients to survive and, like humans, they ‘breathe out’ waste products. Microorganisms that ‘breathe’ like us are called heterotrophic microorganisms. They survive in soils with plenty of oxygen which they use to decompose carbon forms in the soil and they release carbon dioxide. These organisms like drier soils, with…

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