Photosynthetic removal of CO2 from the atmosphere is an important planetary carbon dioxide removal mechanism. Naturally, an amount equivalent to all atmospheric carbon passes through the coupled plant-soil system within 7 years. Plants cycle up to 40% of photosynthesized carbon through their roots, providing a flux of C at depth into the soil system. Root-exuded carboxylic acids have the potential to supply 4-5 micromoles C hr -1g-1 fresh weight to the soil solution, and enhance silicate mineral weathering. Ultimately, the final product of these root-driven processes is CO2, present in solution as bicarbonate. This combines with Ca liberated by corrosion associated with silicate mineral weathering to enter the soil-water system and to produce pedogenic calcium carbonate precipitates. Combining understanding of photosynthesis and plant root physiology with knowledge of mineral weathering provides an opportunity to design artificial soils or to plan land use in ways that maximize removal and sequestration of atmospheric CO2 through artificially enhanced pedogenic carbonate precipitation. This process requires relatively low energy and infrastructure inputs. It offers a sustainable carbon dioxide removal mechanism analogous to the use of constructed wetlands for the passive remediation of contaminated waters, and is likely to achieve wide public acceptance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry