The carbon dioxide emissions are stored mainly by the plants and the oceans, but a new study suggests that deserts are also responsible for storing a large portion of CO2 emissions cause by human activities.
According to a new study conducted by a team of researchers from the US University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, more than 40% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans goes up into the atmosphere, while 30% goes into the oceans. Prior to this study, scientists assumed that the remaining CO2 was absorbed by the plants on land, but according to recent measurements, plants do not absorb that much carbon, which made the researchers wonder where the remaining dioxide goes.
The researchers have been trying to find the place on earth where the remaining carbon goes. This place is called the missing carbon dioxide sink, as per the experts. The new study shows that there are massive aquifers below the deserts that could absorb a large portion of the remaining carbon, which is more than all the plants on land are known to absorb.
The researchers found that any remaining carbon dioxide that is dissolved in the water can make its way through the aquifers to the center of the desert. The study suggests that this carbon ca remain under the desert surface for many thousands of years.
Yan Li, scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Urumqi, Xinjiang and leader of the study, explained that the carbon dioxide is stored in these geological structures that are covered in thick layers of sand. The sand keeps the carbon trapped and it may never go back into the atmosphere, according to researcher Li.
For this study, the researchers analyzed the flow of water that goes through China’s Tarim Desert and found that the carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere gets absorbed by crops and then released back into the earth and transported to the underground groundwater.
The scientists were surprised to find out that the amount of CO2 that entered the Tarim desert’s aquifers dates back to the times of the Silk Road, when farming began to flourish in the region. The study suggests that the desert aquifers of the world contain approximately 1 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is a quarter more than what the living plants have stored.
The scientists wrote about their findings on the carbon dioxide sink and published it in the journal American Geophysical Union.
Image Source: innerriver