Sunday, 2 June 2013

New study in Geophysical Research Letters: "increased carbon dioxide levels have had a fertilization effect, causing a gradual but steady greening of arid regions"

The prayer has been answered; fertilizing carbon dioxide will make the desert green.

Now, when global warming has stopped, governments and organizations like the UN should focus on the benefits of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide. A new study, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, confirms that increased CO2 levels have a beneficial effect, making the planet's arid areas flourish: 

New research has confirmed what scientists have suspected for some time: that elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere cause green foliage to flourish, particularly in arid regions. According to the study accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, increased carbon dioxide levels have had a fertilization effect, causing a gradual but steady greening of arid regions around the planet from 1982 to 2010.
Satellite imagery from the 1980s to the present has shown that foliage is thriving around the globe, leading some scientists to suspect that elevated carbon dioxide concentrations might play a role in the phenomenon. The burning of fossil fuels is a significant source of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas thought to be a major contributor to global warming.
The research team, led by Randall Donahue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, Australia, focused its inquiry on arid regions of the world, such as Australia’s outback, the Middle East, the southwestern United States, and some areas in Africa. They developed a mathematical model that predicted a five to 10 percent increase in foliage in these regions, based on measurements showing a 14 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide between 1982 and 2010. Data obtained from satellite imagery agreed with the team’s predictions, showing an 11 percent increase in green foliage during this period after adjusting for such factors as precipitation, temperature, and amount of light. --

According to Donahue, carbon dioxide’s fertilization effect may have benefits beyond encouraging plants to grow more leaves, such as causing a shift in the types of vegetation prevalent in arid regions.
“Trees are reinvading grasslands, and this could quite possible be related to the carbon dioxide effect,” Donahue said. “Long lived woody plants are deep rooted and are likely to benefit more than grasses from an increase in carbon dioxide.”
The impact of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide on plant function deserves greater attention, according to Donahue, because as global levels rise, we will see significant environmental changes due to the carbon dioxide fertilization effect.

(Image by Steve Bartrick Antique Prints)

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