Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Growing pains

Increased carbon dioxide could be create a boom for semi-arid plant-life, therefore creating high demand for water Increased carbon dioxide could be create a boom for semi-arid plant-life, therefore creating high demand for water Chirkov
11 Dec
2015
Vegetation in semi-arid regions is expected to become more prosperous thanks to escalating carbon dioxide concentrations

There are competing theories regarding what impact higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would have on plant life in semi-arid regions of the world. One suggests that with more CO2 available, plants would be more efficiently capable of absorbing all the greenhouse gas required for photosynthesis, thereby sacrificing less water. This would require less water from the local environment, with a net result of fuller rivers and streams in water-stressed locations.

Unfortunately, a recent study has shown the opposite may be true. While individual plants may indeed use less water, the overall impact of extra carbon dioxide is more plants, resulting in a much higher demand for water resources among the competing vegetation. ‘It’s good for the plants that higher CO2 concentrations mean greenness is increasing, but they use more water, meaning there’s less for rivers, and less for us,’ says study author Colin Prentice, AXA Chair in Biosphere and Climate Impacts from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College, London.

The impact can be seen from space, with satellite images showing a visible greening of Australia between 1982 and 2010, the period for which climate and flow records were analysed. ‘It’s amazing that the results translate from experiments on individual plants to this kind of scale,’ continues Prentice. ‘But it’s reassuring, too, because this is what our theoretical models predict and we can show that the numbers stack up.’

This article was published in the December 2015 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Geophoto

With guaranteed sunshine, bright blue skies and not a hint…

Oceans

A review of coral-saving methods is helping communities decide which…

Polar

A seven-year study of Patagonia’s ice sheets has revealed the…

Climate

The environmental impact of Bitcoin is higher than its virtual…

Geophoto

With a camera in everyone’s pocket, the once rarified world…

Climate

The idea of the Earth as a self-regulating, living organism…

Oceans

A temporary fishing ban has been imposed by the European…

Wildlife

A look at the contribution of hippos to the savannah…

Wildlife

The new app encourages young children to connect with the…

Energy

A type of panel has been invented that can generate…

Tectonics

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were…

Climate

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management pledges to achieve net…

Tectonics

Earthquakes from time immemorial have attracted the attention of the…

Tectonics

A planned kayaking expedition in Nepal took on a whole…

Tectonics

Scientists from Bristol University are working in conjunction with EDF…

Tectonics

In the 1930s, Charles Richter developed a simple scale for…

Tectonics

Researchers at Colombia University have answered a question that has…