April 30, 2024 at 3:31 pm

Environmental Scientists Say Trees Are “Coughing” As They Fail To Absorb C02

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Listen, I was let down by the same bizarre M. Night Shyamalan movie as you were – the whole premise of the plants fighting back was, at the time at least, a bit out there.

Since then, though, science has learned quite a bit about the sentience of plants, and maybe it’s didn’t deserve all the derision we gave it.

Now, researchers say trees in warm, dry climates are “coughing” instead of breathing.

The team of scientists, out of Penn State University, says that trees that live in hotter climates are struggling to keep up with the excess C02.

Worse yet, this means they’re releasing more of that excess back into the atmosphere.

Source: Shutterstock

There is a commonly-held belief that plants help humanity by scrubbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The US Department of Energy places this contribution at around 25% of all C02 emissions related to human activity.

As global warming increases, we know suppose this number will decrease significantly. This is due to a process known as photorespiration, in which trees under stress release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere instead of absorbing it.

“We found that trees in warmer, drier climates are essentially coughing instead of breathing. They are sending C02 right back into the atmosphere far more than trees in cooler, wetter conditions.”

The researchers on this study found that the rate of this process is around two times higher in warmer climates, and three times higher in drier climates.

Any climate that exceeds average daytime temperatures of around 68 degrees experience this issue.

“We have knocked this essential cycle off balance. Plants and climate are inextricably linked. The biggest drawdown of C02 from our atmosphere is photosynthesizing organisms. It’s a big knob on the composition of the atmosphere, so that means small changes have a large impact.”`

It’s not something most of us ever considered, but scientists say plants won’t be able to keep pace with our warming climate.

“The world will be getting warmer, which means plants will be less able to draw down that C02.”

Source: Shutterstock

The researchers on this study used fossilized wood to watch how photorespiration rates have changed over tens of millions of years.

“I’m a geologist, I work in the past. So, if we’re interested in these big questions about how this cycle worked when the climate was very different than today, we can’t use living plants.”

In fact, it’s the plants millions of years in the past that might give us the most accurate glimpse into what we’re in for in the future.

Honestly, I’m not sure I want to know.

There’s not usually good news to come out of these things.

If you thought that was interesting, you might like to read a story that reveals Earth’s priciest precious metal isn’t gold or platinum and costs over $10,000 an ounce!