Deserts Far Better Carbon Sink Than Expected

Some actual good news today, from a research team at one of this countries premier climate research centers, the Desert Research Institute, which reports that unspectacular desert plants may be far better at taking CO2 out of the atmosphere than previously thought.

The annual removal of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere was
upwards of 100 grams of carbon per square metre, on a par with some
temperate forests, with the majority being consumed during spring

So reported Nature in a short piece today posted on the study by Georg Wolfhardt and colleagues at the DRI.  They’re quoted in the press release:

Our results indicate that if all the desert ecosystems in the world–which together make up more than 30 percent
of Earth’s land surface–are taking up carbon dioxide at the same rate as our Mojave Desert site, then the amount
of carbon dioxide taken up each year would match the amount emitted to the atmosphere globally through burning of fossil
fuels (about 6-7 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year)." Arnone said. "Another way to look at this is, without
deserts, the annual rate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide rise might be twice as rapid as it is presently and might
therefore promote more rapid global warming.

Amazingly, "the authors suggest that a significant portion could be stored in the
biological crusts, such as blue-green algae, lichens and mosses, that
cover most desert soils."

Who would’ve thunk it? Gives a whole new meaning to the concept of crusty…


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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