The numerous mudslides set off by last year’s devastating earthquake in China pose a new and long-lasting peril: increased carbon dioxide emissions.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin say the mudslides both ripped away vegetation that normally absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and uncovered buried plant matter that will decompose and release carbon dioxide. Those two effects combined could result in decades of increased carbon emissions close to two percent of what the globe is already producing, they say.
The destruction of vegetation will also cause the region’s soils to lose large amounts of valuable nitrogen, while decaying plant matter will release nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas.
“”From above, the area will look green in a few years, because grass grows back quickly, but the soil nutrients recover very slowly, and other kinds of plants won’t grow,” said lead researcher Diandong Ren.