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Increasing CO2 in air is making deserts greener

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#1 Crisp

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 22:18

Increasing CO2 in air is making deserts greener

Scientists call this a “carbon dioxide fertilization effect.” It has caused a gradual greening of arid regions on Earth from 1982 to 2010.

Scientists have long suspected that a flourishing of green foliage around the globe, observed since the early 1980s in satellite data, springs at least in part from the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Now, a study of arid regions around the globe finds that a carbon dioxide fertilization effect has, indeed, caused a gradual greening from 1982 to 2010.

Focusing on the southwestern corner of North America, Australia’s outback, the Middle East, and some parts of Africa, Randall Donohue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia and his colleagues developed and applied a mathematical model to predict the extent of the carbon-dioxide (CO2) fertilization effect. They then tested this prediction by studying satellite imagery and teasing out the influence of carbon dioxide on greening from other factors such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and land-use changes.

The team’s model predicted that foliage would increase by some 5 to 10 percent given the 14 percent increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration during the study period. The satellite data agreed, showing an 11 percent increase in foliage after adjusting the data for precipitation, yielding “strong support for our hypothesis,” the team reports.

“Lots of papers have shown an average increase in vegetation across the globe, and there is a lot of speculation about what’s causing that,” said Donohue of CSIRO’s Land and Water research division, who is lead author of the new study. “Up until this point, they’ve linked the greening to fairly obvious climatic variables, such as a rise in temperature where it is normally cold or a rise in rainfall where it is normally dry. Lots of those papers speculated about the CO2 effect, but it has been very difficult to prove.”

He and his colleagues present their findings in an article that has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The team looked for signs of CO2 fertilization in arid areas, Donohue said, because “satellites are very good at detecting changes in total leaf cover, and it is in warm, dry environments that the CO2 effect is expected to most influence leaf cover.” Leaf cover is the clue, he added, because “a leaf can extract more carbon from the air during photosynthesis, or lose less water to the air during photosynthesis, or both, due to elevated CO2.” That is the CO2 fertilization effect.

But leaf cover in warm, wet places like tropical rainforests is already about as extensive as it can get and is unlikely to increase with higher CO2 concentrations. In warm, dry places, on the other hand, leaf cover is less complete, so plants there will make more leaves if they have enough water to do so. “If elevated CO2 causes the water use of individual leaves to drop, plants will respond by increasing their total numbers of leaves, and this should be measurable from satellite,” Donohue explained.


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#2 arachnoid

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 22:25

Hmm.. More greenery.might be due to the fact we have a wetter period at the moment

#3 Hum

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 22:26

Yup -- I read years ago that plant life could easily tolerate a 1% higher CO2 atmosphere.

I don't worry about carbon dioxide as much as other gases, polluting the Earth atmosphere.

#4 seta-san

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 22:45

plants breath CO2. I'd imagine animal life would do better off with higher oxygen levels. burning fossile fuels is a great thing. it takes carbon that was previous trapped in the ground in a dirty, toxic form, purifies it and then burns it as something that will end up as food and new good rich soil.

#5 arachnoid

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 23:15

burning fossile fuels is a great thing. it takes carbon that was previous trapped in the ground in a dirty, toxic form, purifies it and then burns it as something that will end up as food and new good rich soil.

Ignoring the first statement due to plants breathing both oxygen and co2 depending on the time of day..................Burning fossil fuels is good!.....your not a child of the 60s or living in the likes of China then with smog common in 18th century London, causing long lasting lung problems to younger generations.

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#6 seta-san

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 23:22

Ignoring the first statement due to plants breathing both oxygen and co2 depending on the time of day..................Burning fossil fuels is good!.....your not a child of the 60s or living in the likes of China then with smog common in 18th century London, causing long lasting lung problems to younger generations.

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china isn't burning it cleanly. in the west there are purification standards.

#7 arachnoid

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 23:27

Yes there are European Union CO2 agreements in place but these will have little effect on the developing countrys like CHINA and INDIA who are not part of the agreement but contribute vast amounts of CO2 to the environment.Burning cleanly requires investment which neither country is going to waste just for environmentalists sake.

#8 Tom

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 23:29

plants breath CO2. I'd imagine animal life would do better off with higher oxygen levels. burning fossile fuels is a great thing. it takes carbon that was previous trapped in the ground in a dirty, toxic form, purifies it and then burns it as something that will end up as food and new good rich soil.


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#9 Raze

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Posted 01 June 2013 - 23:50

Hmm.. More greenery.might be due to the fact we have a wetter period at the moment


"The satellite data agreed, showing an 11 percent increase in foliage after adjusting the data for precipitation, yielding “strong support for our hypothesis,” the team reports.

#10 DrakeN2k

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 00:01

plants breath CO2. I'd imagine animal life would do better off with higher oxygen levels. burning fossile fuels is a great thing. it takes carbon that was previous trapped in the ground in a dirty, toxic form, purifies it and then burns it as something that will end up as food and new good rich soil.


Dear god, Please leave the gene pool.

#11 Osiris

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 00:10

Sweet, one door closes another one opens. Time to buy up some prime dessert property!

#12 brianshapiro

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 00:34

/becomes nostalgic about SimEarth

/then remembers how boring it was

#13 McKay

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 00:37

plants breath CO2. I'd imagine animal life would do better off with higher oxygen levels. burning fossile fuels is a great thing. it takes carbon that was previous trapped in the ground in a dirty, toxic form, purifies it and then burns it as something that will end up as food and new good rich soil.


Plants can only cope with so much, like Oxygen to us, too much becomes poison. Eventually the plants won't be able to cope with the level of CO2, they'll die and release the carbon stored inside them, speeding up the amount released.

#14 chrisj1968

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 01:11

lemme look at this for s second..Trees take in CO2 and change it into oxygen.

Problem: if corporations clear cut rain forests for turning new land into corporate profits... blame big business.

We actually need a certain amount of CO2 when we breathe. we can't live on straight O2.. it will kill us.

the jackasses who call for carbon taxes are the same schills who are the biggest offenders themselves.

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#15 Growled

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 02:34

I think CO2 is only one part of a very complex system.



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