Carbon released by plant respiration may be around 30 per cent higher than previously predicted, a study has found. Researchers from the University of Minnesota in the US suggest that as the mean global temperature increases, respiration will also increase significantly.
Such increases may lower the future ability of global vegetation to offset carbon dioxide emissions caused by burning of fossil fuels. “Plants both capture carbon dioxide and then release it by respiration. Changes to either of these processes in response to climate change have profound implications for how much ecosystems soak up carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels,” said Chris Huntingford, lead author of the study.
“In fact, this study provides the most up-to-date accounting of respiratory carbon releases from plants in terrestrial systems,” said Peter Reich, from the University of Minnesota. The new findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, are based on the comprehensive GlobResp database, which is comprised of more than 10,000 measurements of carbon dioxide plant respiration from plant species around the globe.
Merging this data with existing computer models of global land carbon cycling shows plant respiration has been a potentially underestimated source of carbon dioxide release.