Plant roots 5x more likely than leaves to turn into soil organic matter

Plant roots are five times more likely than leaves to turn into soil organic matter for the same mass of material.

This among other findings from Stanford researchers.

Improving how land is managed could increase soil’s carbon storage enough to offset future carbon emissions from thawing permafrost, the researchers find. Among the possible approaches: reduced tillage, year-round livestock forage and compost application. Planting more perennial crops, instead of annuals, could store more carbon and reduce erosion by allowing roots to reach deeper into the ground.

Soil holds potential to slow global warming | Stanford News


Earthworm mucus increases dissolved carbon 9.8%–37.5%

Earthworm mucus increases dissolved carbon 9.8%–37.5% and accelerates mineralization and humification of organics.

Plant worms. Prime carbon. Increase nutrient cycling.

Role of earthworms’ mucus in vermicomposting system: Biodegradation tests based on humification and microbial activity


During vermicomposting, the organic wastes can be recycled into high-value products as mediated by earthworms through gut digestion, burrowing, casting and mucus excretion. However, to date, few studies have been done on the role of mucus in vermicomposting system compared to the effects of the other activities. Hence, this study investigated the potential role of earthworms’ mucus in the decomposition and humification of organic wastes. For this, the mucus of Eisenia fetida was extracted and inoculated into three vermicomposting substrates using cow dung (CD), fruit and vegetable wastes (FVW), and sewage sludge (SS). The results obtained after a 20 day experiment showed that the mucus could accelerate the mineralization and humification rates of organic components. The dissolved carbon showed 9.8%–37.5% increase in treatments containing mucus, higher than those in substrates without mucus. Moreover, the mucus significantly stimulated the microbial activity and bacterial abundance, showing the greatest increases in FVW treatments. In addition, the mucus positively stimulated growth of Proteobacteria, but negatively affected the Firmicutes during decomposition. This result suggests that the earthworms’ mucus significantly accelerated the decomposition and humification of vermicomposting materials, and could even promote microbial activity, growth, and increase community diversity in vermicomposting systems.


Key to speeding up carbon sequestration in the ocean discovered

Scientists at Caltech and USC have discovered a way to speed up the slow part of the chemical reaction that ultimately helps the earth to safely lock away, or sequester, carbon dioxide into the ocean. Simply adding a common enzyme to the mix, the researchers have found, can make that rate-limiting part of the process go 500 times faster.

On paper, the reaction is fairly straightforward: Water plus carbon dioxide plus calcium carbonate equals dissolved calcium and bicarbonate ions in water. In practice, it is complex. “Somehow, calcium carbonate decides to spontaneously slice itself in half. But what is the actual chemical path that reaction takes?” Adkins says.

Studying the process with a secondary ion mass spectrometer (which analyzes the surface of a solid by bombarding it with a beam of ions) and a cavity ringdown spectrometer (which analyzes the 13C/12C ratio in solution), Subhas discovered that the slow part of the reaction is the conversion of carbon dioxide and water to carbonic acid.

“This reaction has been overlooked,” Subhas says. “The slow step is making and breaking carbon-oxygen bonds. They don’t like to break; they’re stable forms.”

Armed with this knowledge, the team added the enzyme carbonic anhydrase — which helps maintain the pH balance of blood in humans and other animals — and were able to speed up the reaction by orders of magnitude.

Key to speeding up carbon sequestration discovered | EurekAlert! Science News

That makes me wonder about the chemical limitation of carbon sequestration in soils.

Fats may limit cell organism size in carbon-rich media


Bacterial cells in carbon-rich media (purple and blue) grow twice as big as those in carbon-poor media (green). New research shows they can grow big, however, only if they can make fats with the carbon.

Fat (lipids) limits how big bacterial cells can be. “If you prevent cells from making fat, they’re smaller, and if you give them extra fat or allow them to make more fat, they get bigger,” said Levin, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences. “Fat makes cells fat.”

“If we hit the cells with an antibiotic that targets fatty-acid synthesis, we really saw a significant drop in cell size” Vadia said.

Also, by turning up FadR, a transcription factor that activates expression of the fatty-acid synthesis genes, the cells got bigger.

“It doesn’t seem to matter what the lipids are, really,” Levin said, “provided you have enough of them. We found we could give the cells oleic acid, a fat found in avocados and olive oil, to supplement diminished fatty-acid synthesis and as long as the added fatty acid got into the membrane, the cells could recover.”

A little place for my stuff | EurekAlert! Science News

Fatty Acid Availability Sets Cell Envelope Capacity and Dictates Microbial Cell Size: Current Biology

Hydrogenation: transform liquid oil into solid fat
Applied Science

Olive Oil Did WHAT to my Triglycerides??!!?? (Pt 2)

Moisture loving microbes respire twice as much soil carbon

In regions with more rainfall historically, soil microbes were found to respire twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as microbes from drier regions. Scientists determined that this was because the microbes responded differently to change: Those from the wettest areas were four times as sensitive to shifts in moisture as their counterparts from the driest areas.

“Because microbes are small and enormously diverse, we have this idea that when the environment changes, microbes can rapidly move around or shift local abundances to track that environmental change,” Hawkes said. “We discovered, however, that soil microbes and their functions are highly resistant to change. Resistance to environmental change matters because it means that previous local conditions will constrain how ecosystems function when faced with a shift in climate.”

Historical rainfall levels are significant in carbon emissions from soil

Soil Carbon Mineralization Limits.

A new study titled Is the rate of mineralization of soil organic carbon under microbiological control? suggests that:

  • the rate limiting step in SOC mineralization is abiotic (physical rather than biological).
  • that mineralization of SOC may be a two-stage process: firstly, non-bioavailable forms are converted abiologically to bioavailable forms, which, only then, undergo a second process, biological mineralization.

I’ll speculate and say that mineralization is perhaps limited by dissolved organic matter in the form of complex carbon structures that are produced by weathering, oxidation, and detritivores that break apart plant litter. Liquid compounds that tend to be lost when composting.

Compounds that are probably why wet climates and seagrasses sequester the most carbon.

Why drying and wetting of these compounds leads to CO2-Bursts.

Compounds we should be trying to keep in the soil profile doing good, and not in aquifers or waterways creating algal blooms, like we really need to with this recently discovered underground molten lake the size of Mexico!

That depending on the complexity of the carbon molecule as it gets passed down the soil carbon continuum food web it may be more than a two-stage process, with more than one in both the physical and biological realms based upon chemical energy and chemisorption of the carbon compounds.

*shrugs* Just my guess, I suck at chemistry.

Chemisorption:Screenshot from 2017-05-21 12-34-28.png

Add 1.5% Biochar to a 3.5% SOC Soil And Wait 9 Years.

Add 1.5% biochar to a 3.5% (0-100mm sampled) soil organic carbon soil, wait 9 years and it begins to positively prime. Clearly they didn’t add enough to reach a tipping point faster, or depending on your perspective and availability, adding biochar to low carbon soils is a long-term investment. I assume it was surface applied as the study is paywalled.

Screenshot from 2017-05-21 07-29-17

Paywalled: Biochar built soil carbon over a decade by stabilizing rhizodeposits : Nature Climate Change : Nature Research