Stabilization and destabilization of soil organic matter—a new focus
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Interest in soil organic matter (SOM) is ramping up as concern mounts about steadily increasing levels of atmospheric CO2. There are two reasons for this. First, there is hope that improvements in crop, forest, and soil management may allow significant amounts of CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere and sequestered in soil. Second is the possibility that increased soil respiration rates, associated with climate change, will unleash a positive feedback in which temperatures rise even faster than now expected. Other reasons have long existed for understanding SOM dynamics, such as SOM as the source of most of the non-fertilizer N needed for plant growth, but the specter of run-away climate change seems to have now overtaken these other justifications.
Much of the work on SOM triggered by climate change has involved measuring pools over large areas and, especially, changes in those pools over time (Smith 2004; Bellamy et al. 2005). Other work has sought to measure changes in soil C and...
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