A recent study published in the journal “Science Advances” has offered a positive outlook for the planet, suggesting that plants may be able to absorb more atmospheric CO2 from human activities than previously predicted. However, environmental scientists behind the research emphasize that this should not be seen as an excuse for governments to slow down on their efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
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 carbon dioxide moves through leaves, how plants adapt to temperature changes, and how they distribute nutrients in their canopy. These mechanisms are often ignored in global models but have a significant impact on a plant’s ability to fix carbon.
The study focused on the process of photosynthesis, in which plants convert CO2 into sugars, serving as a natural climate change mitigator. However, while the beneficial effect of climate change on carbon uptake by vegetation may not last forever, it is still unclear how vegetation will respond in the future to CO2, temperature, and precipitation changes.
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 would happen in real-world scenarios.
Overall, while this research offers some hope for combatting climate change through natural means, it is important to continue taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable practices that promote healthy ecosystems and communities around the world.