While having an active microbial population decomposing organic matter is important for soil health, they are not without their problems. While organic matter is decomposing, it releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. A fast decay leads to more CO2 in the atmosphere and slow decay could lead to a greater proportion of carbon remaining in the soil. It is estimated that soils store a gigantic 2,300 billion tons of carbon worldwide; triple the amount than all the worlds plants. Therefore in order to gain a better understanding of global CO2 emissions from soils it is vital to know more about the rate of decomposition.
The data from the UK therefore can also be combined with data being collected across Europe (or across the world in fact) in order to gain a better understanding on the role of decomposition in global carbon emissions and the contribution to climate change.
This seems to be a contradiction, on the one hand decomposition is good for plant health, but on the other has the potential to contribute to climate change. Which is why projects such as this, which aim to gain a better understanding of decomposition rates in soil, are so important.