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

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