Arid landscapes blooming as global temperatures rise
Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 2:35 PM -
Arid landscapes in Australia, North America, the Middle East and Africa are bursting with greenery, courtesy of climate change.
According to a new study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), CO2 fertilization contributed to an 11% increase in foliage in arid regions around the world between 1982 and 2010.
"While a CO2 effect on foliage response has long been speculated, until now it has been difficult to demonstrate," said lead author and CSIRO research scientist, Dr Randall Donohue, in a statement. "Our work was able to tease-out the CO2 fertilisation effect by using mathematical modelling together with satellite data adjusted to take out the observed effects of other influences such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and land-use changes."
The fertilsation occurs as higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere cause some leaves to require less water, prompting foliage to increase its total number of leaves.
"On the face of it, elevated CO2 boosting the foliage in dry country is good news and could assist forestry and agriculture in such areas; however there will be secondary effects that are likely to influence water availability, the carbon cycle, fire regimes and biodiversity, for example," Dr. Donohue said.
"Ongoing research is required if we are to fully comprehend the potential extent and severity of such secondary effects."