Study shows arid lands mitigate atmospheric carbon

mohave desert plots

A national team of researchers, including Arizona State University Senior Sustainability Scientist Kiona Ogle, has discovered that arid lands, among the most expansive ecosystems on the planet, absorb an unexpectedly large amount of carbon otherwise released into the atmosphere. Ogle, an expert with extensive knowledge of both complex datasets and desert ecology, assisted in interpreting the findings.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, comes after a novel 10-year experiment in which researchers exposed plots in the Mojave Desert to elevated carbon-dioxide levels similar to those expected in 2050. The researchers then removed soil and plants down to a meter deep and measured how much carbon was absorbed. These findings give scientists a better handle on the earth’s carbon budget, as well as help to explain the degree to which land-based ecosystems absorb or release carbon dioxide as it increases in the atmosphere.