July 14, 2024

New Study Suggests Plants Can Absorb More CO2 than Expected

A new study published in the journal Science Advances has found that plants may have the ability to absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities than previously predicted. The research indicates that more realistic ecological modeling shows that the world’s plants could significantly increase their uptake of atmospheric CO2.

However, the scientists behind the study stress that this should not be seen as an excuse for governments to ease off on their efforts to reduce carbon emissions. While planting more trees and protecting existing vegetation can have multiple benefits, it is not a solution on its own.

Plants naturally absorb a substantial amount of CO2 each year, which helps to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, it has been unclear how long this process will continue in the future. The study, led by Dr. J├╝rgen Knauer from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University, used a well-established climate model to predict carbon uptake by plants until the end of the 21st century.

The researchers considered various critical physiological processes that affect plants’ ability to conduct photosynthesis, such as how efficiently carbon dioxide can move through the leaves, how plants adapt to temperature changes, and how they distribute nutrients. These mechanisms are often overlooked in global models, but they play a crucial role in determining a plant’s ability to fix carbon.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert CO2 into sugars for growth and metabolism. This carbon fixation helps to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and has been responsible for the increasing land carbon sink observed in recent decades.

While climate change has been beneficial for vegetation carbon uptake, it is uncertain how plants will respond to future changes in CO2 levels, temperature, and rainfall. The study tested different versions of the model, ranging from simple to complex, to assess how vegetation carbon uptake would be affected by global climate change.

The results clearly showed that the more complex models, which incorporated a deeper understanding of plant physiology, projected stronger increases in carbon uptake. The three physiological mechanisms considered in the study reinforced each other, resulting in even stronger effects when accounted for in combination.

Silvia Caldararu, Assistant Professor in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, explained the significance of these findings. Many terrestrial biosphere models used to assess the global carbon sink do not fully account for these physiological mechanisms, resulting in an underestimation of the effects of climate change on vegetation.

The implications of these predictions extend to nature-based solutions for climate change, such as reforestation and afforestation. The study suggests that these approaches could have a greater impact on mitigating climate change over a longer time period than previously thought.

However, it is important to note that planting trees alone will not solve the problem of climate change. Efforts to reduce emissions from all sectors are still necessary. While plants have the potential to absorb more CO2, it is crucial that global efforts to reduce carbon emissions continue.

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  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it