A team of Czech researchers have recently published a paper that shows how forests adapt to various lighting scenarios and how those plants living inside dense canopies in jungles succeed increasing their carbon intake even in cloudy conditions. The paper has been published in the British Ecological Society’s Functional Ecology.
Although one would normally think that the only plants receiving light are those at the top of the forest, during cloudy days the forest seems to adapt itself to low lighting conditions and make use of the diffuse light entering it.
“Cloud cover has a direct impact on ecosystems by influencing temperature and light, so the conditions of the sky are just as important to photosynthesis as sunlight itself,” said lead author Dr Otmar Urban, from the Global Change Research Centre in Brno. “Surprisingly however studies show that an increase in cloud cover and the resulting diffusion of light can actually enhance the photosynthesis of forest canopies, but the mechanism behind this has remained unknown.”
Tests performed on a spruce forest under both sunny and cloudy conditions showed that when the light had been highly diffused during cloudy days, the plants’ carbon uptake had been higher, compared to the one during sunny days.
While on sunny days the top of the canopy had a contribution of up to 78 percent carbon intake, on cloudy days it only contributed with 43 percent, but the rest of the forest beneath was more efficient at sequestering carbon.