Climate Change Hits Belowground
Heavy traffic and smoke billowing from factories is what most people associate with carbon gases and
climate change, but soils hold more carbon than all plant life on Earth. Dr. Ben Duval, pictured, is hoping to
understand how plant roots and microbes in the soil help store that carbon belowground. Along with
graduate students, Duval is studying what triggers native New Mexican piñon and juniper trees to make
seeds in our dry ecosystems, a process that requires plants to put some of their carbon into roots. Soil
bacteria and fungi chemically change the carbon, and play an important role in keeping it in the ground.
Duval is also working on a Department of Energy funded project that will measure how much carbon gets
into the soil from crop roots, and if the amount of carbon that stays belowground depends on a farmer's
decisions about how and when to use fertilizer and irrigation.