The carbon bubble has exploded in the past decade and now accounts for a third of all the carbon emitted from land-based sources, according to new research published in the journal Global Change Biology.
The researchers say the increase in the carbon content of the atmosphere, coupled with the increasing carbon dioxide emissions from land, has accelerated the process of climate change.
“The rate of carbon emission from land and the resulting increased amount of CO 2 are leading to increased carbon uptake by the atmosphere and in turn the increase of temperature,” lead author Rui Mazzucato, an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona, said in a statement.
“These changes are causing a further increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which has a detrimental impact on climate.”
In addition to the rising atmospheric carbon content, the researchers say that land-use change, agricultural practices and the increased use of synthetic fertilizers are contributing to the increase.
“Land use and soil carbon are strongly connected, with both being related to climate change,” Mazzuco said.
“Both of these are accelerating the carbon absorption in the atmosphere.”
This image from NASA shows how carbon dioxide is being absorbed from the air by plants in the tropical rainforest.
The scientists found that a change in vegetation growth and soil fertility has been associated with a rise in carbon uptake in the climate system.
“For the past few decades, there has been a steady increase in carbon fluxes into the atmosphere,” said lead author Jennifer Tingley, a professor of earth sciences at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
“That increase in CO 2 emissions, coupled to increased vegetation growth, is leading to an increased uptake of carbon in the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems, contributing to global warming.”
The researchers found that the increase and subsequent decrease in carbon absorption is linked to changes in soil fertility, with changes in fertilization practices leading to greater soil carbon storage.
“We know that soil carbon can be stored, and we know that when you have increased carbon flux from the atmosphere into the soil, it can cause an increase in soil carbon,” Tingly said.
The carbon content in the environment was also linked to the rate of change in carbon dioxide levels.
“If you have more carbon in soil, the carbon that you have stored in your soil is getting released back into the environment,” Tingsley said.
This image shows the rate at which carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) is absorbed by plants.
The amount of carbon that is being stored in the soil is higher when there is more carbon flux, indicating a warmer atmosphere and therefore an increased release of carbon.
In addition, the more carbon that the plants absorb, the faster the carbon is released into the air.
“There is no doubt that the rate and magnitude of this change has been accelerating over the last few decades,” Tingingley said, adding that the carbon uptake has been “extremely rapid.”
The study was led by Tingles work with colleagues from the University and Rutgers Universities.