A recent study published in Science Advances presents an optimistic outlook on the world’s plants’ ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activities. Despite this promising finding, the environmental scientists behind the research emphasize that this should not be interpreted as governments taking their foot off their responsibilities to reduce carbon emissions quickly.
Planting more trees and protecting existing vegetation has many benefits, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Research shows that plants absorb a considerable amount of carbon dioxide each year, mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. However, it is yet unknown how much they will continue to absorb this gas in the future.
Jürgen Knauer, leader of the research team, explains that a well-established climate model used for global climate predictions predicts stronger and more sustained carbon uptake until the end of the 21st century when considering critical factors commonly ignored in most global models. The study presents results from modeling aimed at evaluating a high-emissions climate scenario and testing how vegetation carbon uptake would respond to global climate change until the end of the 21st century.
Photosynthesis is the scientific term for plants converting carbon dioxide into sugars they use for growth and metabolism, serving as a natural mitigator of climate change by reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. This greater absorption of carbon dioxide is what has led to an expanding sink of terrestrial element recorded over recent decades. However, it remains unclear how vegetation will respond to changes in gas, temperature, and precipitation when evaluated in context with climate change scenarios.