Navigation Links
CO2 effects on plants increases global warming

Palo Alto, CA Trees and other plants help keep the planet cool, but rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are turning down this global air conditioner. According to a new study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science, in some regions more than a quarter of the warming from increased carbon dioxide is due to its direct impact on vegetation. This warming is in addition to carbon dioxide's better-known effect as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas. For scientists trying to predict global climate change in the coming century, the study underscores the importance of including plants in their climate models.

"Plants have a very complex and diverse influence on the climate system," says study co-author Ken Caldeira of Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology. "Plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but they also have other effects, such as changing the amount of evaporation from the land surface. It's impossible to make good climate predictions without taking all of these factors into account."

Plants give off water through tiny pores in their leaves, a process called evapotranspiration that cools the plant, just as perspiration cools our bodies. On a hot day, a tree can release tens of gallons of water into the air, acting as a natural air conditioner for its surroundings. The plants absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis through the same pores (called stomata). But when carbon dioxide levels are high, the leaf pores shrink. This causes less water to be released, diminishing the tree's cooling power.

The warming effects of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas have been known for a long time, says Caldeira. But he and fellow Carnegie scientist Long Cao were concerned that it is not as widely recognized that carbon dioxide also warms our planet by its direct effects on plants. Previous work by Carnegie's Chris Field and Joe Berry had indicated that the effects were important. "There is no longer any doubt that carbon dioxide decreases evaporative cooling by plants and that this decreased cooling adds to global warming," says Cao. "This effect would cause significant warming even if carbon dioxide were not a greenhouse gas."

In their model, the researchers doubled the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide and recorded the magnitude and geographic pattern of warming from different factors. They found that, averaged over the entire globe, the evapotranspiration effects of plants account for 16% of warming of the land surface, with greenhouse effects accounting for the rest. But in some regions, such as parts of North America and eastern Asia, it can be more than 25% of the total warming. "If we think of a doubling of carbon dioxide as causing about four degrees of warming, in many places three of those degrees are coming from the effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and one is coming from the direct effect of carbon dioxide on plants."

The researchers also found that their model predicted that high carbon dioxide will increase the runoff from the land surface in most areas, because more water from precipitation bypasses the plant cooling system and flows directly to rivers and streams. Earlier models based on greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide had also predicted higher runoff, but the new research predicts that changes in evapotranspiration due to high carbon dioxide could have an even stronger impact on water resources than those models predict.

"These results really show that how plants respond to carbon dioxide is very important for making good climate predictions," says Caldeira. "So if we want to improve climate predictions, we need to improve the representation of land plants in the climate models. More broadly, it shows that the kind of vegetation that's on the surface of our planet and what that vegetation is doing is very important in determining our climate. We need to take great care in considering what kind of changes we make to forests and other ecosystems, because they are likely to have important climate consequences."

The study is published in the May 3-7 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Contact: Ken Caldeira
Carnegie Institution

Related biology news :

1. ARS scientists study effects of grazing on grouse habitat
2. Genes may exert opposite effects in diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease
3. Vitamin D levels have different effects on atherosclerosis in blacks and whites
4. Exercise counters negative effects of weight regain, researchers find
5. Study: Gene therapy reverses effects of lethal childhood muscle disorder in mice
6. Effects of forest fire on carbon emissions, climate impacts often overestimated
7. Researchers trace effects of genetic defect in myotonic muscular dystrophy
8. Disproportionate effects of global warming and pollution on disadvantaged communities
9. UA-led study grapples with health effects of low-intensity warfare
10. Study finds logging effects vary based on a forests history, climate
11. Study points to new uses, unexpected side effects of already existing drugs
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
CO2 effects on plants increases global warming
(Date:6/16/2016)... FRANCISCO , June 16, 2016 ... size is expected to reach USD 1.83 ... by Grand View Research, Inc. Technological proliferation and ... banking applications are expected to drive the market ... ) , The development of advanced ...
(Date:6/3/2016)... , June 3, 2016 ... von Nepal hat ... Lieferung hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich Personalisierung, Registrierung ... in der Produktion und Implementierung von Identitätsmanagementlösungen. ... Ausschreibung im Januar teilgenommen, aber Decatur wurde ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... care by providing unparalleled technology to leaders of the medical imaging industry.  As such, ... to the range of products distributed by Ampronix. Photo - ... ... ... With ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... June 27, 2016   Ginkgo Bioworks , a ... engineering, was today awarded as one of the ... the world,s most innovative companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is ... the real world in the nutrition, health and ... directly with customers including Fortune 500 companies to ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... Researchers at ... most commonly-identified miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings are the ... read it now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, lung fluid ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT has ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics Inc. ... and commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class WDR5 ... targets such as WDR5 represent an exciting class ... in precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial advances ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SANTA MONICA, Calif. , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer ... to pioneer increasingly precise treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of ... 77 institutions across 15 countries. Read More About the ... ... ...
Breaking Biology Technology: