Terrestrial plants (land based plants) are removing about 29 percent of our emissions that would otherwise contribute to growth of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. What Lucas Cernusak, ecoyphysiologist from James Cook University in Australia, model analysis showed is that the role of terrestrial photosynthesis in driving this land carbon sink is larger than estimated in most other models. Cernusak shows that photosynthesis has increased by 30 percent.
Humans add on average of 2 ppm of CO2 per year. The mass of the atmosphere is 5148 trillion tons. 2 ppm of CO2 is about 10.3 billion tons of CO2 per year. However, total human CO2 and global warming emissions is about 40 billion tons of CO2 per year. 75% gets absorbed by the land, plants and oceans.
Enzymes to Boost Plant Yields
Scientists from the University of Illinois and the Department of Agriculture have been experimenting with ways to genetically modify plants to store up even more carbon. An enzyme called rubisco is responsible for capturing CO2 for photosynthesis, and scientists want to make it more efficient.
Modified crops with increased rubisco boosts yields by about 40 percent, but using the modified plant enzyme on a large commercial scale could take more than a decade to implement. So far tests have only been done on common crops like tobacco, and it’s unclear how rubisco would alter trees, which capture the most carbon.
Best Trees for Absorbing CO2
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has looked at tree species. Trees grow quickly and live long are ideal carbon sinks. Unfortunately, these two attributes are usually mutually exclusive. This would mean that the selection should be made for faster-growing trees that absorb more CO2 per year and then cut those trees down to store the CO2 as wood. The wood should then not be burned. Wood can be stacked up in dry locations where they will not rot.
Given the choice, foresters interested in maximizing the absorption and storage of CO2 (known as “carbon sequestration”) usually favor younger trees that grow more quickly than their older cohorts.
Dave Nowak, a researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York, has studied the use of trees for carbon sequestration in urban settings across the United States. A 2002 study he co-authored lists the common horse-chestnut, black walnut, American sweetgum, ponderosa pine, red pine, white pine, London plane, Hispaniolan pine, Douglas fir, scarlet oak, red oak, Virginia live oak, and bald cypress as examples of trees especially good at absorbing and storing CO2. Nowak advises urban land managers to avoid trees that require a lot of maintenance, as the burning of fossil fuels to power equipment like trucks and chainsaws will erase the carbon absorption gains otherwise made.
Nextbigftuure notes that maintenance could be performed by electric vehicles using non-fossil fuel power generation.
SOURCES – DOE, National Geographic, Earth System Research Lab, NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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9 thoughts on “Boosting Plants to Close the CO2 Absorption Gap”
Whether something is problematic or not often depends on its concentration. Is this really so difficult to understand? A second parameter you need to understand is the time derivative of this concentration because this sets the time derivative of the resulting temperatures in this case. For organisms to adapt to changing conditions they need both time to evolve and flexibility in terms of geography. They have neither in the current crisis. Try to understand some basic biology before proclaiming your ignorance.
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‘Study the Vostok Ice Core samples and you will learn that the earth has warmed and cooled hundreds of times over millennia…’
You haven’t paid much attention to them yourself – the Vostok cores only go back four glaciation cycles. Further back, you need other lines of evidence.
‘Study the Siberian Traps eruptions. An area the size of the United States erupted into the climate spewing billions of tons of CO2 and Methane and other gases and it wasn’t enough to cause a mass extinction.’
Yes it was. The end-Permian extinction killed over ninety percent of extant species, in less than a million years.
As far as I remember that message was very clear.
You’ve linked to the ECM fungi stuff previously, but unfortunately the actual links you gave never specifically mentioned that changing the fungi types will change the CO2 storage.
They mentioned that there are different fungi. They mentioned that some trees have one sort and other trees have other sorts. But the critical point of “change the fungi to change CO2 storage” is never said.
I don’t know if you have sources you forgot to mention or if you just assumed this.
Most of that varied from reasonable to patronizing. But
Going to need some actual data and argument to support that one.
Okay, we have to do this drill again: CO2 Is Not A Pollutant. Animals breath in Oxygen. Then they exhale CO2. And then, all the plants around us breath in the CO2 and make more Oxygen… Okay?
Study the Vostok Ice Core samples and you will learn that the earth has warmed and cooled hundreds of times over millennia, and we’re simply doing it again.
What is happening today is not the result of our machines. Study the Siberian Traps eruptions. An area the size of the United States erupted into the climate spewing billions of tons of CO2 and Methane and other gases and it wasn’t enough to cause a mass extinction.
All of Al Gore’s predictions were wrong. The earth isn’t about to end. These are all lies cleverly crafted to lite off brush fires in your heads.
The polar bears are fine. The caribou are fine. We are producing food like never before.
Don’t buy the lies of Big Green and opportunists like Al Gore and his Hollywood hucksters.
Using GMO trees is a recipe for a disaster as a disease can destroy swathes of genetically similar trees all at once. We don’t know what other negative consequences GMO low genetic diversity artificial eco system may cause. We also need to maintain the original eco system for a healthy environment. Where we can improve maybe is selecting for growing trees with longer roots for the different species as the CO2 is stored in the roots and give some preference to types of trees that harbor ECM fungi in the roots which is the type that stores CO2. Pretty sure that this is enough to substantially increase CO2 storage in a sustainable way.
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