RUDN: Deep-Rooted Plants Help Slow Down Climate Change, Says A Soil Scientist From RUDN University
A soil scientist from RUDN University found out that plants with deep root systems promote the storage of organic carbon in the soil. This, in turn, can help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and mitigate climate change.
Global climate change is caused by greenhouse gases (mainly carbon-containing) that are accumulated in the atmosphere. A major part of carbon is consumed by plants in the form of CO2 and gets into the soil after the plants die and decay. Then, some carbon returns to the atmosphere with gases, and some is stored in the soil in the form of organic waste. A scientist from RUDN University suggested a way to increase carbon retention in the soil.
“The ability of soils to store organic carbon can help mitigate the consequences of global climate change. That is why it is important to find ways to increase the retention of organic matter in the soil. For several years now researchers have been focusing on promoting the storage of organic carbon in the topsoil, while its retention in deeper layers (especially in ones below 1 m) remained understudied. However, judging by the biochemical conditions in these layers, one can assume that it should take the organic matter much longer to decompose there. Thus, deeper layers could retain carbon more efficiently,” said Yakov Kuzyakov, a Ph.D. in Biology, and the Head of the Center for Mathematical Modeling and Design of Sustainable Ecosystems at RUDN University.
Perennial deep-rooted plants are one of the ways to transport carbon to deep soil layers. Their roots loosen the soil, emit CO2 into it, feed symbiotic bacteria that live on their surface, and then die. The team studied three perennial plant species that affect the deposition of organic matter in deep soil layers: alfalfa (Medicago sativa), intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium), and whole-leaf rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium). These plants belong to different families (Leguminosae, Poaceae, and Asteraceae, respectively), but all have roots that are over five meters long.