Carbon in the soil is broken down naturally and released
into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas. However, as the air
temperature increases, this process occurs more quickly, which
means too much gas is produced, adding to the atmospheric trap,
and consequently to global warming.
Soil can also produce other harmful ‘greenhouse’ gases
such as methane and nitrous oxide. Waterlogged soils and flooded
soils in particular are responsible for producing methane.
Soil scientists are currently developing new ways of reducing
the amount of these gases escaping into the atmosphere, in an effort
to reduce their impact on our environment.
The change in temperature and rainfall patterns is also damaging
the physical structure of soils. The organic matter in particular
is being affected, its balance being crucial to the nutrient balance
of the soil, its stability, the amount of water it can hold, and
the populations of soil organisms. Additionally, the changes are
likely to leave some soils more vulnerable to damage by erosion.