Sequestering Carbon the Natural Way–in the Soil

Could plants help to trap carbon in the soil?

What do you think is the main reservoir of carbon in the biosphere?  The atmosphere, right?  Well, no.  The main reservoir is the soil, holding approximately five times as much carbon as the atmophere!  Too bad there’s not a way to sink carbon into the soil and trap it there, decreasing the carbon in the atmosphere.  But guess what!  There is!

When plants grow and produce sugars in photosynthesis, the sugars remaining after the plant uses what it needs are transported down the stem to the roots to be stored there.  But some of the sugary liquid oozes out into the soil immediately surrounding the roots.  There it feeds the microbial partners of the plant, such as mycorrhizal fungi that help provide water and nutrients for the plant.  (Talk about a nice symbiotic relationship!)

But some of those sugars stick to clumps of mineral particles in the soil, forming soil aggregates.  Here’s the amazing thing:  those aggregates can last for hundreds of years if undisturbed, and all the while they are trapping carbon because sugars are built on a backbone of carbon.  Carbon trapped for hundreds of years in the soil –out of the atmosphere!

So plant some plants, especially native perennial grasses, because they have extremely long and extensive root systems to exude that oozing syrupy sugar.  And support restorations that are planting in your area because it’s the “carbon smart” thing to do!

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