A new study published in Science Advances suggests that the world’s plants may absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activities than previously predicted. This surprising finding has been met with caution by environmental scientists, who stress that this should not be taken as an excuse for governments to reduce their efforts to cut carbon emissions.
While planting more trees and protecting existing vegetation can have many benefits, it is not a “silver bullet” solution to climate change. Research shows that plants absorb a significant amount of carbon dioxide each year, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change, but it is still unclear how they will respond to changes in gas, temperature, and precipitation over time.
Jürgen Knauer, the leader of the research team behind the study, explains that a widely used climate model used for global predictions predicts stronger and more sustained carbon uptake until the end of the 21st century when considering critical factors often overlooked in most global models. The study aimed to evaluate how vegetation carbon uptake would respond to global climate change scenarios until the end of this century.
Photosynthesis is the scientific term for the process in which plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars for growth and metabolism, serving as a natural mitigator of climate change by reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The increased absorption of carbon dioxide is what has led to the growing sink of this terrestrial element recorded in recent decades. However, it remains uncertain how vegetation will adapt to changes in gas, temperature, and precipitation in response to climate change scenarios.