Scientists from University of Texas, Austin and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory claim that plants absorb much larger quantities of carbon dioxide than models have previously predicted. By studying the exact process, through which the gas moves within the plant leaves, the team established a 16% increase in absorption rate.
The study was based on a comprehensive dataset from the period between 1901 and 2010, which contains estimates of carbon dioxide absorbed through fertilization. The research findings published in the the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that 16% more gas is taken up by plants within the period of interest than previously estimated.
The authors claim that the difference in numbers is caused by the gap between the work of global scale modelers and that of scientists, who focus on precise, fundamental processes. The team also states that the overestimation has happened mainly after 1950s.
According to specialists in the field, the paper explains to a large extend the reason why models cannot fully reproduce the increase in atmospheric CO2. Proving that vegetation takes up more than we thought, might trigger the need of re-calibration of the prediction models, so that their accuracy is increased.
But what does this mean in relation to climate change? Well, yes, larger amounts of CO2 being absorbed by plants means that there could be a slight change in some numbers, but it is unlikely that this would make a big or significant difference in global CO2 trends.
It is also important to remember that the study by no means implies that emission cuts and efforts to use energy efficient technologies should be dismissed. In order to meet the targets, no one should rely on numbers. The only solution would be to green up our lives and hope that with our joint efforts, we can manage to reverse the damage we have already caused.
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