Here’s another climate change concern: Superheated bugs in the soil, belching carbon

WASHINGTON 

Rising temperatures that are contributing to wildfires and droughts are also changing the world’s soil so that it pumps out more carbon dioxide, a “feedback loop” that could aggravate climate change, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Increased heat is activating microbes in the soil, converting organic matter into carbon dioxide at a heightened rate, much like a compost heap that decomposes quickly when exposed to a lengthy heat wave.

Scientists say this feedback loop has implications for understanding the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In the past, many researchers assumed that increased carbon dioxide would trigger a boost in growth of forests and vegetation that would capture carbon and counteract impacts of more rapid soil decay.