Scientists for the first time measured how much carbon dioxide absorbs all plants of the Earth as a whole, and concluded that the efficiency of photosynthesis has increased by 30% over the past hundred years and reached record values due to global warming, according to an article published in the journal Nature.
“The whole life on our planet depends on how effectively photosynthesis works in plants.Observation of the speed with which flora grows and how effectively it processes carbon dioxide should become the main task of mankind in the future,” said Elliott Campbell, From the University of California in Merced (USA).
The first photosynthetic organisms on Earth, blue-green bacteria, appeared about 2.4 billion years ago, and since then, representatives of the flora are the dominant living beings on the planet. Their appearance, as scientists believe today, caused the first mass extinction of life, but today the lives of all animals and other organisms depend on plants, plankton and microbes.
How much carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants began to interest scientists after the discovery that the increase in the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere led to a noticeable increase in average annual temperatures. Today, biologists believe that plants have already begun to absorb more carbon dioxide as its concentration in the air increases, but what exactly will happen in the future and how the entire flora of the Earth as a whole will react as long as no one knows.
Campbell and his colleagues took the first step toward an accurate assessment of how the “light planets” react to further growth in CO2 concentration in the air, inventing an ingenious technique to assess how effectively photosynthesis works at the level of the entire flora as a whole.
Scientists have drawn attention to the fact that plants absorb not only CO2, but also the so-called carbonyl sulphide compound, sulfur, oxygen and carbon (COS), which appears in the atmosphere as a result of the decomposition of organic remains. The only “consumer” of this substance in nature, Campbell explains, are plants, which makes it possible to use the COS concentration as a reliable indicator of their photosynthetic activity.
Guided by this idea, the scientists went to Antarctica and collected there samples of ice and snow, formed over the past 53 thousand years. In these ice and compacted snow mass, as explained by climatologists, air bubbles are preserved, the concentration of carbonyl sulphide in which will prompt how the plants absorbed CO2 at the time these deposits were formed.
An analysis of their contents showed that the level of photosynthetic activity of plants remained at a stable level throughout almost the entire history of mankind, except for the 20th century. Over the past 70 years, as scientists note, the efficiency of plant photosynthesis has increased by 31-36%, which is probably associated with an increase in the concentration of CO2 in the air. This estimate is significantly higher than previous predictions, although it fits into the current forecasts of how plants will respond to climate change.
“There is a temptation to believe that our results indicate that the Earth’s climate will soon stabilize by itself, reacting to an increase in CO2 concentration, but in fact our conclusions suggest that increased plant efficiency will still not be sufficient to compensate for anthropogenic emissions Green “gases, in other words, natural” brakes “are not strong enough for this, we need to understand how we can help them,” concludes Joe Berry of the Carnegie Institute of Science in Washington, USA.