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Soils may help limit climate change by storing more carbon when temperatures rise, according to new research.

J M Melillo from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, United States, and colleagues mimicked the effect global warming will have underground by burying electric heating cables, in a ten-year study.

They report in this week's issue of Science that, in the short-term, soil warming causes an increase in the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, by accelerating the decay of organic matter.

But as time goes on it also increases the availability of mineral nitrogen to plants, promoting tree growth. For mid-latitude forests, where growth is determined chiefly by the amount of nitrogen available, warming may stimulate carbon storage, slowing the rate of future climate change, the authors say.

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Link to Science research paper by J.M. Melillo et al
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