The alarming rate of carbon dioxide flowing into our atmosphere is affecting plant life in interesting ways – but perhaps not in the way you’d expect. Despite large losses of vegetation to land clearing, drought and wildfires, carbon dioxide is absorbed and stored in vegetation and soils at a growing rate. This is called the “land carbon sink”, a term describing how vegetation and soils around the world absorb more carbon dioxide from photosynthesis than they release. And over the past 50 years, the sink (the difference between uptake and release of carbon dioxide by those plants) has been increasing, absorbing at least a quarter of human emissions in an average year. The sink is getting larger because of a rapid increase in plant photosynthesis , and our new research shows rising carbon dioxide concentrations largely drive this increase. So, to put it simply, humans are producing more carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is causing more plant growth, and a higher capacity to suck up carbon dioxide. This process is called the “carbon dioxide fertilisation effect” – a phenomenon when carbon emissions boost photosynthesis and, in turn, plant growth. What we didn’t know until our study is just how […]

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