Global warming could cause tropical soils to release 55% more carbon dioxide, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature. “It’s a bad news story,” Andrew Nottingham, an ecologist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, told the New York Times. The thin layer of soil covering much of the planet’s land holds more carbon than all of Earth’s plants and its atmosphere combined. Though scaling the results worldwide, with varying temperature ranges and soil compositions, is difficult, the study’s findings are sobering.

If the entire tropics responds to global warming similarly, the researchers estimate 65 billion metric tons of carbon will enter the atmosphere in the next 80 years, more than six times the annual emissions from all human-related sources. The finding “is another example of why we need to worry more” about the speed of global warming, Eric Davidson, an environmental scientist at the University of Maryland, who was not involved in the study, told the Times. (New York Times $)