A new study has found that the Amazon rainforest is much more resilient to the effects of global warming than previously thought, because the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide acts as an airborne fertilizer to rainforest plants.
“I am no longer so worried about a catastrophic die-back due to CO2-induced climate change,” Peter Cox, professor at the University of Exeter in England told Reuters. “In that sense it’s good news.”
Cox was the author of a 2000 study that predicted that the Amazon rainforest would be dried out by 2050 because of rising global temperatures. However, the new study led by Cox found that CO2 fertilization will allow the rainforest to withstand many of the negative effects of global warming.
“CO2 fertilization will beat the negative effect of climate change so that forests will continue to accumulate carbon throughout the 21st century,” Cox said about the recent study.
Plants store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to grow. When plants die or are burnt, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere.
The study found that for every one degree Celsius rise in temperature, 53 billion tons of carbon stored in tropical lands — particularly in the Amazon — would be released. In most scenarios, the rainforest benefited more from CO2 fertilization than it lost.
However, the study notes that warming would be damaging to the Amazon if greenhouse gases that do not help plant life grow, like ozone or methane, play a larger role in rising temperatures.
Reuters reported that the study could “bolster slow-paced efforts to create a market mechanism to reward nations for preserving tropical forests” as part of a new global climate treaty which is expected be agreed upon by the end of 2015.
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