Plants Storing More Water as CO2 Levels Rise

Published by: Mike Goldman on 10th Mar 2011 | View all blogs by Mike Goldman
Plants Storing More Water as CO2 Levels Rise

Vegetation in Florida has been evolving its structure over the last century or so in response, scientists believe, to rising levels of CO2, in what some researchers are describing as a plant-based call-to-arms, signaling dry times that lay ahead.

Plants breathe in air just like animals and exhale moisture through tiny pores called stomata.  An international group of ecologists conducted a study in which they compared the number of stomata found on living plants with those of museum samples of plants that date back as much as 150 years.  What they discovered was that as the Earth's CO2 levels have increased, the number of stomata found on plants has decreased.

The international research team has published two papers on the work in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  “Our first paper shows connection between temperature, transpiration, and stomata density,” David Dilcher of Indiana University said in a school press release.  “The second paper really is about applying what we know to the future.”

The researchers concluded that stomata density on plants has decreased by 34 percent over the last 150 years, and predicts that further increases in CO2 levels will reduce the amount of water lost to the atmosphere by 50 percent.  That reduction, the team says, could have a severe impact on global rainfall and other weather events.
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