Study: Plants’ increased uptake of carbon dioxide is reaching its limits

As the carbon dioxide content of the air increases, plants also absorb more of the greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has a kind of fertilizing effect on the plants, but this is now getting smaller, reports the University of Augsburg. In the past four decades, an international team has observed a decrease of around 30 percent in this fertilizing effect.

During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to convert CO2 from the air into high-energy biomolecules. So they bind part of the man-made CO2 emissions. Photosynthesis increases when there is more CO2 in the air. This fertilizing effect can slow down climate change. However, according to satellite observations by the researchers, this amplification effect has been decreasing worldwide since the 1980s. The reasons are difficult to grasp, according to the press release.

“Plants need a balance of CO2, water and other important nutrients in order to grow,” explained Daniel Goll from der University of Augsburg in the communication the university. The CO2 concentration increases, but not water and nutrients. Presumably, the plants could therefore not use the high concentration of the gas for themselves.

This could also have consequences for the effectiveness of some climate protection strategies such as the reforestation of forests, explains one of the study’s lead authors, Yongguang Zhang from Nanjing University in China.

Society must therefore rely even more on other strategies in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, demand the scientists from Augsburg. The Study was in the journal Science released.


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