A study published in Science Advances shows that the world’s plants may absorb more carbon dioxide than previously predicted due to human activities. This optimistic finding does not mean that efforts to reduce carbon emissions should be slowed down. Planting more trees and protecting existing vegetation is not enough, but the study highlights the benefits of conserving such vegetation.
The research team, led by the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western University of Sydney, found that a climate model used in global climate predictions predicts increased carbon uptake by plants until the end of the 21st century. The efficiency of carbon dioxide processing within plants and how plants adapt to changes in temperature and nutrient distribution were found to be critical factors that affect a plant’s ability to absorb carbon.
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the greater absorption of carbon dioxide is a benefit, it is uncertain how future changes in gas, temperature, and precipitation will affect vegetation’s carbon uptake.
The research team used their modeling to evaluate how vegetation carbon uptake would respond to global climate change under a high-emissions scenario until the end of the 21st century. They found that more intense droughts and severe heat due to climate change could weaken the absorptive capacity of terrestrial ecosystems.
This study highlights the complexities of carbon uptake by plants and emphasizes the need for continued efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It also stresses the importance of conserving vegetation for its long-term benefits.