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Faster decomposition under increased atmospheric CO2 limits soil carbon storage

Faster decomposition under increased atmospheric CO2 limits soil carbon storage

Soils contain the largest pool of terrestrial organic carbon (C) and are a major source of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Thus, they may play a key role in modulating climate change. Rising atmospheric CO2 is expected to stimulate plant growth and soil C input but may also alter microbial decomposition. The combined effect of these responses on long-term C storage is unclear. Combining meta-analysis with data assimilation, we show that atmospheric CO2 enrichment stimulates both the input (+19.8%) and the turnover of C in soil (+16.5%). The increase in soil C turnover with rising CO2 leads to lower equilibrium soil C stocks than expected from the rise in soil C input alone, indicating that it is a general mechanism limiting C accumulation in soil.

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