Carbon buildup in Ganges basin may worsen global warming

   Nov 10, 4:08 pm

Washington, Nov 10 (ANI): Carbon storage in the soils and sediments of the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin may make it possible for global warming to destabilize the pool of carbon there and increase its release rate into the atmosphere, a new study has claimed.

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) examined the radiocarbon content of river sediments collected from the Ganges-Brahmaputra system draining the Himalayas.

According to them, the basin "represents one of the largest sources of terrestrial biospheric carbon to the ocean."

Using radiocarbon dating, Valier Galy and Timothy Eglinton found that organic carbon resides in the basin for anywhere from 500 to 17,000 years, and that downstream, in the Gangetic floodplain, the longest residence times range from 1,500 to 3,500 years.

Researchers said that the relatively long carbon residence time in the Ganges system has "big implications for the global carbon cycle," because "the longer it is stored in the soil, the longer it is kept away from the atmosphere" as CO2.

The buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere is thought to be largely responsible for global warming.

"If carbon has a short residence time in soils, global warming can't speed up the rates too much of exporting carbon to the atmosphere," Galy said.

But if carbon resides in the soil for thousands of years, as it does now in much of the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin, global warming can speed the transfer of carbon from soils and sediments to the atmosphere.

It can do so by warming the region and stimulating microbial decomposition of organic carbon reserves there.

"Global warming would likely destabilize this ancient carbon, generating an extra flux of CO2 to the atmosphere, hence further warming," he said.

"This may not be too important over the short-term-decades, for example, but over a longer time scale-tens of thousands of years-it can be important," he added.

The study has been recently published online in Nature Geoscience. (ANI)

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