Navigation Links
Study: Earth can sustain more terrestrial plant growth than previously thought
Date:8/26/2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. A new analysis suggests the planet can produce much more land-plant biomass the total material in leaves, stems, roots, fruits, grains and other terrestrial plant parts than previously thought.

The study, reported in Environmental Science and Technology, recalculates the theoretical limit of terrestrial plant productivity, and finds that it is much higher than many current estimates allow.

"When you try to estimate something over the whole planet, you have to make some simplifying assumptions," said University of Illinois plant biology professor Evan DeLucia, who led the new analysis. "And most previous research assumes that the maximum productivity you could get out of a landscape is what the natural ecosystem would have produced. But it turns out that in nature very few plants have evolved to maximize their growth rates."

DeLucia directs the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at the U. of I. He also is an affiliate of the Energy Biosciences Institute, which funded the research through the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois.

Estimates derived from satellite images of vegetation and modeling suggest that about 54 gigatons of carbon is converted into terrestrial plant biomass each year, the researchers report.

"This value has remained stable for the past several decades, leading to the conclusion that it represents a planetary boundary an upper limit on global biomass production," the researchers wrote.

But these assumptions don't take into consideration human efforts to boost plant productivity through genetic manipulation, plant breeding and land management, DeLucia said. Such efforts have already yielded some extremely productive plants.

For example, in Illinois a hybrid grass, Miscanthus x giganteus, without fertilizer or irrigation produced 10 to 16 tons of above-ground biomass per acre, more than double the productivity of native prairie vegetation or corn. And genetically modified no-till corn is more than five times as productive in terms of total biomass generated per acre as restored prairie in Wisconsin.

Some non-native species also outcompete native species; this is what makes many of them invasive, DeLucia said. In Iceland, for example, an introduced species, the nootka lupine, produces four times as much biomass as the native boreal dwarf birch species it displaces. And in India bamboo plantations produce about 40 percent more biomass than dry, deciduous tropical forests.

Some of these plants would not be desirable additions to native or managed ecosystems, DeLucia said, but they represent the untapped potential productivity of plants in general.

"We're saying this is what's possible," he said.

The team used a model of light-use efficiency and the theoretical maximum efficiency with which plant canopies convert solar radiation to biomass to estimate the theoretical limit of net primary production (NPP) on a global scale. This newly calculated limit was "roughly two orders of magnitude higher than the productivity of most current managed or natural ecosystems," the authors wrote.

"We're not saying that this is even approachable, but the theory tells us that what is possible on the planet is much, much higher than what current estimates are," DeLucia said.

Taking into account global water limitations reduced this theoretical limit by more than 20 percent in all parts of the terrestrial landscape except the tropics, DeLucia said. "But even that water-limited NPP is many times higher than we see in our current agricultural systems."

DeLucia cautions that scientists and agronomists have a long way to go to boost plant productivity beyond current limits, and the new analysis does not suggest that shortages of food or other plant-based resources will cease to be a problem.

"I don't want to be the guy that says science is going to save the planet and we shouldn't worry about the environmental consequences of agriculture, we shouldn't worry about runaway population growth," he said. "All I'm saying is that we're underestimating the productive capacity of plants in managed ecosystems."


'/>"/>

Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Study: Cutting emissions pays for itself
2. Study: Worlds primary forests on the brink
3. New study: Ravens rule Idahos artificial roosts
4. Study: arctic mammals can metabolize some pesticides, limits human exposure
5. Study: Marine pest provides advances in maritime anti-fouling and biomedicine
6. Study: Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies
7. Mouse study: Natural birth may strengthen the immune system
8. USF study: Amphibians can acquire resistance to deadly fungus
9. New study: Ancient Arctic sharks tolerated brackish water 50 million years ago
10. Study: To address climate change, nothing substitutes for reducing CO2 emissions
11. Study: In wild yak society, moms are the real climbers
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Study: Earth can sustain more terrestrial plant growth than previously thought
(Date:2/2/2016)... Feb. 2, 2016  BioMEMS devices deployed ... focused on medical screening and diagnostic applications, ... Wearable devices that facilitate and assure continuous ... movement are being bolstered through new opportunities ... signal acquisition coupled with wireless connectivity and ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... RESTON, Va. , Feb. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... contract award from the U.S. Army Research Office ... extend the range and sensitivity of the company,s ... DoD,s Past Accounting Mission and, more generally, defense-related ... its DNA phenotyping capabilities (predicting appearance and ancestry ...
(Date:2/1/2016)... ( www.wocketwallet.com ) announces the launch of a new video featuring singer, ... Las Vegas , where Joey appeared at the Wocket booth to ... , where Joey appeared at the Wocket booth to meet and greet ... the Consumer Electronics Show (CES2016) in Las Vegas , ... --> --> The video is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... February 10, ... ... REGN) today announced that it has joined the Human Vaccines Project, a ... infectious diseases and cancer. , The Human Vaccines Project brings together ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... BOSTON , Feb. 10, 2016  Matchbook, ... sourcing for fast growing biotech companies, announced today ... Senior Procurement Strategic Advisor. Jim brings nearly 25 ... sourcing and procurement, having spent nearly two decades ... Supply Chain/Logistics and Procurement at Genzyme and, most ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... LATHAM, NEW YORK... Marktech Optoelectronics will ... conference in San Francisco’s Moscone Center from February 16-18, 2016, and at the ... These latest InGaAs PIN diode standard packages feature a TO-46 metal can with active ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... , ... February 10, 2016 , ... ... available on Microsoft Azure. On Azure, Arvados provides capabilities for managing and processing ... demand for Microsoft Azure from major institutions collecting and analyzing genomic data,” said ...
Breaking Biology Technology: