The greening of the Earth is approaching its limit
by Staff Writers
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Dec 14, 2020
When plants absorb this gas to grow, they remove it from the atmosphere and it is sequestered in their branches, trunk or roots. An article published in Science shows that this fertilizing effect of CO2 is decreasing worldwide, according to the text co-directed by Professor Josep Penuelas of the CSIC at CREAF and Professor Yongguan Zhang of the University of Nanjin, with the participation of CREAF researchers Jordi Sardans and Marcos Fernandez. The study, carried out by an international team, concludes that the reduction has reached 50% progressively since 1982 due basically to two key factors: the availability of water and nutrients.
"There is no mystery about the formula, plants need CO2, water and nutrients in order to grow. However much the CO2 increases, if the nutrients and water do not increase in parallel, the plants will not be able to take advantage of the increase in this gas", explains Professor Josep Penuelas. In fact, three years ago Prof. Penuelas already warned in an article in Nature Ecology and Evolution that the fertilising effect of CO2 would not last forever, that plants cannot grow indefinitely, because there are other factors that limit them.
If the fertilizing capacity of CO2 decreases, there will be strong consequences on the carbon cycle and therefore on the climate. Forests have received a veritable CO2 bonus for decades, which has allowed them to sequester tons of carbon dioxide that enabled them to do more photosynthesis and grow more. In fact, this increased sequestration has managed to reduce the CO2 accumulated in the air, but now it is over.
"These unprecedented results indicate that the absorption of carbon by vegetation is beginning to become saturated. This has very important climate implications that must be taken into account in possible climate change mitigation strategies and policies at the global level. Nature's capacity to sequester carbon is decreasing and with it society's dependence on future strategies to curb greenhouse gas emissions is increasing", warns Josep Penuelas.
The study published in Science has been carried out using satellite, atmospheric, ecosystem and modelling information. It highlights the use of sensors that use near-infrared and fluorescence and are thus capable of measuring vegetation growth activity.
Less water and nutrients
The team has also found that water availability and temporal changes in water supply play a significant role in this phenomenon. "We have found that plants slow down their growth, not only in times of drought, but also when there are changes in the seasonality of rainfall, which is increasingly happening with climate change," explains researcher Yongguan Zhang.
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Technology for capturing carbon from industrial emissions and storing it may still be in its early stages, but proponents believe it can become a major tool in the fight against climate change. For its methods to rollout on a scale large enough to make a difference, though, experts and critics say carbon capture and storage (CCS) still has to overcome a host of logistical and financial hurdles. CCS techniques are designed to capture and store carbon dioxide generated by power stations using fos ... read more
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