NASA found 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to be consumed by the forests alone, which is more than researchers previously thought, the total planet’s consumption being 2.5 billion metric tons yearly. A study conducted by David Schimel with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, first of its kind, using a variety of models, data and technology found that carbon dioxide is much more consumed by tropical forests. That is happening because the effect gets stronger with higher temperatures.
Carbon fertilization happens when it is an increase in the plants growth due to the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere. As humans increase the quantity of gases in the atmosphere, tropical forests are going to consume more. Because of the air flow and massive tropical deforestations, scientists thought that the vast boreal forests like Siberia and Canada, which are actually slowing their carbon dioxide consumption, were consuming more of the greenhouse gas, but this new study reveals otherwise.
Through the process of photosynthesis and even storage, 30 percent of man-made carbon dioxide is cleared out by forests and other land vegetation releasing as a byproduct another gas, critical to our survival, oxygen. If that process would be getting slower, global warming would increase.
As the temperature is rising, it increases the wildfires, forest fires and in that process produces a large quantity of greenhouse gas. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to a growth in vegetation and forests that consume more greenhouse gases than previously thought, which in turn, leads to a decrease in water availability as that new vegetation needs it.
Before this groundbreaking study, the theory of rates of consumption of carbon dioxide were calculated in the laboratory, under the microscope. Co-author Britton Stephens of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says that now they have a bigger understanding of the ecosystems and the way they interact with the greenhouse gases and this method will help them predict future changes in climate at a planetary scale.
The study published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences on Dec. 29, is the first to devise a way to make apples-to-apples comparisons of the gas estimates from many sources at different scales such as computer models of the processes of ecosystems, inverse models which are atmospheric models run back in time for deducing the concentrations of today’s values, data from different experimental forest plots, satellite imaging and others.
The researchers concluded with the help of this study, in which they approached new angles of calculating the effects and consumption of greenhouse gases by forests, especially tropical. They said these independent data sources start to converge on an answer.
As the human race burns more of the fossil fuels, the levels of carbon dioxide will grow more. Surprisingly, more than previously thought, nature and the forests gorging with carbon dioxide are one step ahead, trying to meet our ever bigger demands. Both humans and nature produce carbon dioxide and through nature’s decomposing objects and ocean respiration it releases more, but through its ingenious system that is taken care of.
By Sebastian Andro