New research published in the international journal “Science Advances” offers a positive outlook for the planet. The study suggests that plants may be able to absorb more atmospheric CO2 from human activities than previously thought. However, environmental scientists behind the research emphasize that this should not be seen as an excuse for governments to slow down on their obligations to reduce carbon emissions quickly.
According to Dr. Jurgen Knauer, who led the research team at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University, the study found that a well-established climate model predicts a stronger and more sustained carbon absorption by plants until the end of the 21st century when accounting for critical physiological processes that govern photosynthesis. These processes include how efficiently carbon dioxide moves through leaves, how plants adapt to temperature changes, and how they distribute nutrients in their canopy.
The study focused on photosynthesis, a natural climate change mitigator in which plants convert CO2 into sugars. While there is still uncertainty about how vegetation will respond to CO2, temperature, and precipitation changes in the future, it is clear that physiological processes play a significant role in determining a plant’s ability to fix carbon. In their scientific modeling study, the researchers evaluated how carbon uptake by vegetation would respond to global climate change through the end of the 21st century under a high-emissions scenario. They found that more complex models incorporating plant physiological processes consistently projected stronger increases in carbon uptake by vegetation globally. The effects of these physiological processes reinforced each other, resulting in even stronger effects when taken into account together as they would happen in real-world scenarios.
In conclusion, while this positive outlook is welcome news for our planet’s future, it does not mean we can afford to relax our efforts to reduce carbon emissions quickly. It is crucial that we continue to prioritize reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing policies and practices that support sustainable land use and forest management practices worldwide.