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Scientists say plants may be bigger ‘get out of jail free card’ than previously thought: ‘Reductions are still critically important’

“This is hella good news.”

"This is hella good news."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study shows that scientists may have been underestimating the power and resilience of plants. 

Research published in the journal Science Advances in November found that plants might have the capacity to soak up more carbon dioxide in the future than expected, as Trinity College Dublin detailed for Phys.org.    

“We often think about climate models as being all about physics, but biology plays a huge role,”  Silvia Caldararu, an assistant professor at Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, told Phys.org. 

Previous predictive models suggested that the droughts and overheating of our planet brought on by human activities would negatively impact the ability of plants to absorb heat-trapping pollution. 

As Phys.org pointed out, the “simplest version ignored the three critical physiological mechanisms associated with photosynthesis,” the process by which plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen and food. 

“We accounted for aspects like how efficiently carbon dioxide can move through the interior of the leaf, how plants adjust to changes in temperatures, and how plants most economically distribute nutrients in their canopy,” research team leader Dr. Jürgen Knauer said

“These are three really important mechanisms that affect a plant’s ability to ‘fix’ carbon, yet they are commonly ignored in most global models,” Knauer added. 

The findings provide even more reasons for people to work on their green thumbs, as well as support reforestation efforts

The National Wildlife Federation noted that more than two million tons of carbon could be eliminated annually if each of the 85 million gardening households in the United States planted just one shade tree, while data from the National Forest Foundation shows that “U.S. forests offset between 10 to 20%” of harmful pollution annually, in addition to protecting biodiversity.

It’s important to note, however, that the promising findings don’t change the urgent need to reduce carbon pollution, with the use of dirty energy like oil and gas the main contributor to changing global temperatures. 

“Simply planting trees will not solve all our problems,” Caldararu told Phys.org. “Trees alone cannot offer humanity a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

“So what this tells me is if we can continue, or accelerate, reforestation efforts, then there’s a good chance we could sequester a sizable chunk of carbon out of the atmosphere… This is hella good news,” one Redditor commented on a post announcing the agreed-upon good news. 

“It’s good news, but reductions are still critically important,” another reflected

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