One Size Doesn’t Fit All: No Universal Soil Response to Nitrogen Deposition Says USU Ecologist

by Mary-Ann Muffoletto, Utah State University
August 07, 2023

Soil, that loamy, gritty dirt under your feet, plays a huge part in both the progression and mitigation of climate change, says Utah State University ecologist Savannah Adkins.

“That’s because soil stores an immense amount of carbon that once existed in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,” says Adkins, a doctoral candidate in USU’s Department of Biology and Ecology Center.

Soils remove some 25 percent of carbon dioxide produced annually by fossil fuel burning from Earth’s atmosphere, she says, and could potentially remove as much as 35 percent of total greenhouse gases.

Eliminating that much excess atmospheric carbon dioxide would help prevent the worst effects of climate change, she says, but there’s a downside.

“Soils also release carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere and, as climate change progresses, soils will release even more carbon dioxide, adding to the negative effects of climate change,” says Adkins, who conducts research with USU Biology Professor John Stark. “My research aims to better understand soil carbon cycling under the progression of climate change with the hope of driving management plans focused on enhancing soil carbon storage.”

Adkins presents this research with the contributed poster, “Nitrogen Deposition is Not an Indicator of Continental-Scale Soil C Sequestration,” at 5 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday, Aug. 9, at the 2023 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. She’s among nearly 30 Aggies from throughout the university presenting at the gathering, which attracts some 3,000 attendees from throughout the United States and other countries.

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