The study reveals that plants can absorb more carbon dioxide than previously thought


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Terrestrial vegetation acts as an important mitigator of anthropogenic climate change due to its ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. This is due to gross primary productivity (GPP), a metric of photosynthetic activity at the tree canopy scale, i.e. in the forest canopy environment.

Terrestrial biosphere models (TBMs) are the main tools for predicting the spatial and temporal evolution of PPB. This provides responses to increases in atmospheric CO2, temperature variability and other factors of climate change.

A new study of the day was published in this direction Scientific advances incorporated three photosynthetic mechanisms not previously combined in TBM: photosynthetic temperature acclimation, explicit transgenics and photosynthetic optimization.

The research team performed global simulations for historical climate (1900-2005) and projected climate (2006-2099) using the RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 climate scenarios.

The RCP2.6 climate scenario states that emissions will drop to net zero around 2075 and then turn negative. The RCP8.5 climate scenario instead refers to a continued increase in emissions, which will double by 2050 and more than triple by the end of the century.

Is continuing to plant trees enough to mitigate the effects of climate change?

The results of the study highlight that the three photosynthetic mechanisms involved are strongly supported by leaf-level observations, but are currently ignored or only partially considered in TBM.

Their simulations show that more advanced models of photosynthesis that take these mechanisms into account tend to predict higher PPB responses to climate change conditions compared to basic representations that do not take them into account or take them into account only partially.

TBM photosynthetic mechanisms
The main direct effects of established mechanisms on photosynthetic behavior. Source: Knauer and colleagues (2023).

“Plants absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide each year, thereby limiting the harmful effects of climate change, but it is currently unknown to what extent they will absorb CO2 in the future,” the study’s lead author told Cosmos Magazine. Jürgen Knauer University of Vienna.

A larger-than-expected increase in PPB with respect to future climate change would have important implications for assessing the global carbon cycle because PPB is the primary pathway by which atmospheric CO2 enters the Earth’s biosphere.

We found that a well-established model serves to assess global climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts stronger and more sustained carbon uptake by the end of the 21st century, explaining the impact of some critical physiological factors. processes that control plant photosynthesis, Knauer said.

“Merely planting trees will not solve all our problems, and at best it can help during the transition period when society moves away from fossil fuels. Ultimately, we need to eliminate emissions from all sectors. Planting trees alone offers nothing to humanity.” “get out of jail” he said Ben Smith, co-author of the study and director of the Hawkesbury Institute.

Link to news

Jürgen Knauer et al. Higher global gross primary productivity in future climates with more advanced representations of photosynthesis. Sci. Adv. 9 (2023).


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