Plants emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than predicted, according to a new research conducted by ANU and international colleagues.And how do plants on earth affect the amount of carbon in earth’s atmosphere?
Plants acquire carbon dioxide via photosynthesis and then release half of it into the atmosphere through respiration. Photosynthesis allows plants to release oxygen into the atmosphere.
According to ANU Professor Owen Atkin, the research indicated that the emission of carbon dioxide by plant respiration throughout the planet is up to 30% more than previously estimated.
He said that the carbon dioxide generated by plants each year is now believed to be roughly 10 to 11 times that of human activity, rather than the earlier estimate of 5 to 8 times.
“The work reveals that when global temperatures rise, the quantity of CO2 produced via plant respiration will rise dramatically,” said Professor Atkin of ANU’s Research School of Biology and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.
“At the moment, plants absorb and store around 25% of carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels, which is excellent since it helps lower the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
“Our findings show that plants’ beneficial impact may reduce in the future as they begin to breathe more deeply as the earth heats.”
The findings were reported in Nature Communications.
The Australian National University cooperated with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the United Kingdom, Western Sydney University, and numerous other prominent universities from the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand.
The ANU team oversaw data gathering for the research, which included measurements of carbon dioxide emission by plant respiration from over 1,000 plant species.
Changes in photosynthesis and respiration processes in reaction to a rising climate, according to Western Sydney University’s Professor Mark Tjoelker, would have major ramifications in terms of the amount of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels that plants can absorb.
“Increased respiration in a hotter environment may presage a decline in vegetation’s potential to absorb carbon emissions,” he added.
The research makes use of plant respiration data from more than 100 isolated locations across the world, ranging from scorching deserts in Australia to deciduous and boreal forests in North America and Europe, Arctic tundra in Alaska, and tropical forests in South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Dr Chris Huntingford of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the study’s lead author, said that the data, when paired with carbon cycling models, give unique insights into the amount of global plant respiration and how future temperatures may alter this process.
“The research emphasizes the need of revisiting carbon budget forecasts and how carbon travels in and out of plants throughout the globe,” he added.
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