Trees could become a carbon dioxide source instead of a carbon sink due to the ravaging effects of climate change in the future.
Plants speed up their metabolic processes as temperatures rise. This will lead to a changeover from the forests being carbon sinks to carbon sources. Of course, such a scenario will cause even greater climate change.
A new study points out that 1000 young trees that were examined, adjusted to the rising warmth in the atmosphere and released a fifth of the carbon dioxide as was expected by scientists.
This is a part of a five year project titled B4Warmed. Its goal was the simulation of the effects of climate change on various plant samples. As the climate became warmer and warmer, the trees acclimatized to the weather and released lesser carbon emissions than usual.
When the experts increased the temperatures at the experiment venue by 3.4 degrees, the plants increased their leaf respiration rates by 5%. Such a temperature change may occur by the end of the 21st century.
Had the young plants not been acclimatized, they would have increased their respiration by 23% over those existing in normal temperatures.
Prior research showed that in case of tiny plants, warming over weeks caused greater release of carbon dioxide. This release was greater than expected from the experiment which lasted from 2009 to 2013. This experiment is very important since it pinpoints various anomalies in the system.
Most models ignore this release of CO2 and respiratory homeostasis in plants. It is a fact though that it does take place on a regular basis. Thanks to more data that is now coming our way, the models can be molded closer to reality.
This research is an optimistic take since plants will never release enough carbon dioxide to worsen the state of the planet beyond repair. Despite the global warming, the CO2 released by plants will adjust itself in proportion to the level of heat in the atmosphere.
However, the problem with most greenhouse gases polluting the planet remains intact. This will need a solution. The carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will need to be curbed radically if we are to have a pristine environment in the future.
“This work is important because most global C cycle models ignore this respiratory adjustment and project accelerated climate warming because of elevated respiratory CO2 release,” says Peter Reich, professor of forest resources at the University of Minnesota, who led the project and is the paper’s lead author. “Now, with better data we can make those models more realistic. ”
“Although these results are ‘good news’ in the sense that the underlying physiology of plants is not going to make the warming of the planet radically worse, the problem we have created in the first place with our greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning still exists,” he says. “So, we very much still need to cut our carbon emissions in the coming decades by enough to stop climate change.”
Don't Miss: Nintendo Switch: Everything You Need To Know
The study got published in the journal Nature.