The projected loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere resulting from climate change is a potentially large but highly uncertain feedback to warming. The magnitude of this feedback is poorly constrained by observations and theory, and is disparately represented in Earth system models (ESMs)(1-3). To assess the climatological temperature sensitivity of soil carbon, we calculate apparent soil carbon turnover times(4) that reflect long-term and broad-scale rates of decomposition. Here, we show that the climatological temperature control on carbon turnover in the top metre of global soils is more sensitive in cold climates than in warm climates and argue that it is critical to capture this emergent ecosystem property in global-scale models. We present a simplified model that explains the observed high cold-climate sensitivity using only the physical scaling of soil freeze-thaw state across climate gradients. Current ESMs fail to capture this pattern, except in anESMthat explicitly resolves vertical gradients in soil climate and carbon turnover. An observed weak tropical temperature sensitivity emerges in a different model that explicitly resolves mineralogical control on decomposition. These results support projections of strong carbon- climate feedbacks from northern soils(5,6) and demonstrate a method for ESMs to capture this emergent behaviour.
NATURVETENSKAP -- Geovetenskap och miljövetenskap (hsv//swe)
NATURAL SCIENCES -- Earth and Related Environmental Sciences (hsv//eng)
SAMHÄLLSVETENSKAP -- Social och ekonomisk geografi (hsv//swe)
SOCIAL SCIENCES -- Social and Economic Geography (hsv//eng)