A team of plant scientists has suggested that transforming arid lands, such as deserts, could help to tackle the problem of excessive CO2 levels in the atmosphere. They believe that by improving soil health, enhancing photosynthetic efficiency, and increasing root biomass, arid ecosystems could become efficient carbon-capture systems. This could be achieved by using a naturally occurring process called the oxalate-carbonate pathway to create carbon sinks underground. The advantage of using arid lands is that they do not compete with agricultural land for food production. The process involves using arid-adapted plants that produce oxalates, which certain soil microbes use as their sole carbon source. As a result, carbonate molecules are excreted into the soil. When these plant-microbe systems are grown in alkaline- and calcium-rich soils, the carbonate reacts with calcium to form stable calcium carbonate deposits. The researchers estimate that this method could significantly increase carbon sequestration in both plants and soil within ten years. However, the success and speed of this approach will depend on factors such as plant growth rate and the financial and political means to implement it in arid countries.
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