Plants may absorb more CO2 than previously thought, new research suggests.

Newswise — a new study was published today in a leading international journal Achievements of science It paints an uncharacteristically optimal picture for the planet. This is because more realistic ecological modeling suggests that the world's plants can take up more atmospheric carbon dioxide.2 from human activity than previously predicted.

Despite this headline finding, the environmental scientists behind the study are quick to stress that this should by no means be taken to mean that the world's governments can shirk their commitments to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible. Simply planting more trees and protecting existing vegetation is not a golden bullet solution, but research highlights the many benefits of maintaining such vegetation.

Plants take in significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year, thereby slowing down the harmful effects of climate change, but how much will this CO continue2 Future acceptance was uncertain. “ explains Dr. Jürgen Knauerwho led a research team led by the University of Western Sydney's Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.

“We found that a well-established climate model used to feed global climate projections like the IPCC predicts stronger and more sustained carbon uptake by the end of 21 years.”St century, when it considers the influence of some critical physiological processes that regulate plant photosynthesis.

“We looked at aspects such as how efficiently carbon dioxide can move within the leaf, how plants adapt to changes in temperature, and how plants distribute nutrients most economically across their canopy.” “These are three really important mechanisms that affect a plant's ability to fix carbon, but they are usually ignored in most global models,” said Dr. Knauer.

Photosynthesis is the scientific term for the process by which plants convert – or “fix” – CO2 in sugar used for growth and metabolism. This carbon fixation serves as a natural mitigation of climate change by reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere; This is an increased absorption of CO2 with vegetation cover being the main driver of increasing terrestrial carbon sinks known in recent decades.

However, the beneficial effects of climate change on vegetation carbon sequestration may not last forever, and it has long been unclear how vegetation responds to CO.2, temperature and precipitation changes that are significantly different from what is observed today. Scientists thought that intense climate change, such as more intense droughts and intense heat, could significantly weaken the carrying capacity of terrestrial ecosystems, for example.

However, in a study published this week, Knauer and colleagues present results from their modeling study designed to assess a high-emissions climate scenario to test how plant carbon uptake will respond to global climate change by the end of 21 years.St century.

The authors tested different versions of the model, which differed in their complexity and realism in how plant physiological processes are accounted for. The simplest version ignored three critical physiological mechanisms involved in photosynthesis, while the most complex version included all three mechanisms.

The results were clear: more complex models that incorporated more plant physiological understanding consistently predicted strong increases in plant carbon uptake globally. The processes fed into each other, so the effects were even stronger when combined to account for what would happen in the real world.

Silvia Kaldarau, Assistant Professor, Trinity School of Natural Sciences, was involved in the study. Contextualizing the findings and their relevance, he said:

Because most terrestrial biosphere models used to estimate global carbon sinks are at the lower end of this complexity range, only partially accounting for these mechanisms or ignoring them altogether, it is likely that we are currently underestimating the effects of climate change on vegetation. as well as its resilience to climate change. We often think of climate models as physics, but biology plays a big role, and that's what we really need to consider.

“Such projections have implications for decisions based on the nature of climate change, such as reforestation and reforestation, and how much carbon such initiatives can consume. Our findings suggest that these approaches may have a greater impact in mitigating climate change and over a longer period of time than we think.

“However, just planting trees will not solve all problems. We absolutely must reduce emissions from all sectors. Trees alone cannot offer humanity a get-out-of-jail-free card. ”