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Climate change is making it harder for trees to ‘breathe’

Published Feb 3rd, 2024 10:33AM EST
mangrove trees
Image: ballllad / Adobe

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A new study highlights just how much climate change is affecting our trees. According to new research, which was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the effectiveness of trees to act as filters for carbon dioxide is falling, especially in warmer and drier climates.

The research further highlights how increasing temperatures around the globe are making it harder and harder for trees to “breathe” and trap the heat-trapping gas, which could further expand on current global warming issues if levels rise too high.

This is a real concern that only acts as a bookmark among the ongoing lists of things that are affecting climate temperatures around the world. As such, learning just how much the effectiveness of trees is being affected will greatly change any understanding we have of the ongoing climate issues.

extreme heat belt could leave many states dryImage source: piyaset / Adobe

Why is this an issue? Well, trees typically remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to help produce their own growth. However, under stressful conditions, they release more of that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a process that we call photorespiration. Hence the “breathing” moniker.

By looking at a global dataset of tree tissue, the researchers behind the new study were able to document that the rate of photorespiration is up to two times higher in warmer climates. As such, it is estimated that trees in environments where the temperatures are rising will slowly start to be less effective.

If that happens, then trees could release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere all around the globe. This wouldn’t be a huge issue if we weren’t talking about one of the biggest natural combatants we have to fight back against climate change. But, since we are, cutting trees’ effectiveness to filter out carbon dioxide is a huge issue that we need to find ways to address.

Of course, we have seen a few different ideas for how to solve the climate change issue, including some out-of-this-world solutions like putting space bubbles between us and the sun. But the problem is still growing, and no real solution has been settled on.

The fact that we’ve knocked this essential cycle off balance is extremely concerning, and if we don’t do something to stop it, we could very well be on our way to the climate doom loops that others have mentioned in the past.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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