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Rising CO2 levels increasing plant growth? But at what cost...

Last Friday you were either part of, or witnessed one of the largest protest to have occurred in Australia demanding for climate action. 

In light of this event, I thought I’d share with you some science on the effects and what to expect of climate change on our environment. The environment as a whole is resilient and more so will adapt to the changes coming – with species loss and disrupted communities-  thus altering the natural environment we know today.   

Increased climatic drying and wildfires across much of Australia are well-known impacts from human induced climate change. However did you know that these changes will also alter chemical processes, development, interactions and ultimately the ecology for much of our flora and fauna? 

Plants rely on CO2 for photosynthesis and growth. With increases in CO2 levels we can expect to observe more rapid growth in plants – great right? Not exactly, unfortunately it comes at a nutritional cost that will ultimately impact the animals (including humans) that eat plants.

A short article in the leading scientific journal Nature summarises:

Current evidence suggests that that the concentrations of atmospheric CO2 predicted for the year 2100 will have major implications for plant physiology and growth. Under elevated CO2 most plant species show higher rates of photosynthesis, increased growth, decreased water use and lowered tissue concentrations of nitrogen and protein. Rising CO2 over the next century is likely to affect both agricultural production and food quality. The effects of elevated CO2 are not uniform; some species, particularly those that utilize the C4 variant of photosynthesis, show less of a response to elevated CO2 than do other types of plants. Rising CO2 is therefore likely to have complex effects on the growth and composition of natural plant communities.

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