News / Science & Technology

Arid Areas Greening Because of Higher CO2 Levels

New research links gradual greening of arid areas like Australia’s outback to increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. (Photo by Bruce Doran)
New research links gradual greening of arid areas like Australia’s outback to increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. (Photo by Bruce Doran)

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Higher levels of carbon-dioxide has caused some of the Earth’s most arid regions to become more green, according to new research.

Scientists focused on the American southwest, Australia’s outback, the Middle East and parts of Africa, and found that from 1982 to 2010 there was a “fertilization effect” caused by increased carbon-dioxide levels.

Researchers predicted foliage would increase by 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 variations, according to a study published by the American Geophysical Union.

The use of satellite imagery was key to the findings.

“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,” said  Randall Donohue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia, who led the effort.

Donohue added that leaf cover is a clue 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.”

“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,” he said.

The scientists say they were able to isolate the effects of CO2 from other factors like precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light and land-use changes.

This was done by first averaging out the greenness levels of each location over 3-year periods to account for changes in soil wetness, for example. They then predicted the maximum amount of foliage that could be attained with the given precipitation along with other climatic variations to see the long-term greening effect of CO2.

The research also said that the fertilization effect could lead to different types of vegetation dominating the dry regions.

“Trees are re-invading grass lands, and this could quite possibly be related to the CO2 effect,” Donohue said. “Long lived woody plants are deep rooted and are likely to benefit more than grasses from an increase in CO2.”

While the researchers say the effects of fertilization as a result of higher CO2 levels need more study, it will likely lead to “significant environmental changes,” even if nothing else in the climate changes said Donohue.

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This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mike
June 27, 2013 6:52 AM
CSIRO is absolutely not "industry supported", it is a government funded independent body.

by: Babu G. Ranganathan
June 03, 2013 10:39 AM
THE WHOLE EARTH AT ONE TIME HAD A UNIFORM TEMPERATURE AND CLIMATE. The Bible in Genesis 1:6 teaches that there was water above the sky. This condition doesn’t exist today because that water fell upon the earth during the great Noahic flood. The water above the sky would have had a greenhouse effect so that the temperature around the globe would have been uniform and tropical, even at the North and South poles.

Please read my popular Internet article, ARE FOSSILS REALLY MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD? Evolutionary dating methods are not infallible and far from accurate. Check out some of my Internet articles and sites: NATURAL LIMITS OF EVOLUTION, WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS (2nd Edition), NO HALF-EVOLVED DINOSAURS, DOES GOD PARTICLE EXPLAIN UNIVERSE'S ORIGIN? THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION and Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS
*I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I've been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis "Who's Who in The East" for my writings on religion and science.

by: Phillip Noe from: Oregon
June 03, 2013 10:29 AM
Research who produced the study. CSIRO is an industry supported institution. Their mission is to research "... ways to benefit the Australian community and the economic and social performance of a number of industry sectors through research and development." So no, they do NOT research the costs of climate change. Those costs far outweigh any "greening" of arid areas. Consider the global decrease in fresh water supplies, raising sea levels, ocean acidification, etc. We need to change the ways we generate and use energy or we will suffer the consequences. It's too late to prevent ALL the effects but we can mitigate them. It's moral, the only rational thing to do.

by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, TKO
May 31, 2013 7:56 PM
Does this research mean even if CO2 level increased there is no need to worry becuase it will lead aird area more greener by fertilization effect?
That sounds good. Let's produce more CO2 to solve food cricis.

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