Trees Under Stress: Climate Change Hampers Their Ability to ‘Breathe’

A recent study spearheaded by researchers from Penn State highlights an alarming consequence of climate change on trees and their role in carbon sequestration. As global climates become warmer and drier, trees are increasingly struggling to act as effective carbon sinks. The process of photosynthesis, which trees use to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, is being compromised. Under stress, trees can release CO2 back into the atmosphere through a process called photorespiration, which has been found to occur at rates up to twice as high in warmer, water-scarce environments.

The response becomes more pronounced when average daytime temperatures surpass approximately 68 degrees Fahrenheit, a condition frequently met in subtropical climates. The research utilized a global dataset of tree tissue to explore this phenomenon, focusing on variations in the abundance of specific isotopes within wood methoxyl groups as indicators of photorespiration activity.

These isotopic “flavours” in the wood samples, sourced from an extensive archive at the University of California, Berkeley, collected in the 1930s and 40s, provided insights into the photorespiratory trends across different climates and conditions worldwide.

This study underscores the pressing need to reassess the role of trees in mitigating climate change under evolving environmental stresses. It raises questions about the long-term viability of relying on forest carbon sinks as temperatures continue to rise. Read More

News Credit: Sci Tech Daily

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