Rising water stress could counteract ‘global greening’, study says

The increased growth rate of plants seen worldwide in response to rising CO2 levels – a phenomenon known as “global greening” – could be stalled by growing water stress, a study finds. 

Global warming is driving changes to water vapour levels, the research finds, which could, in turn, be affecting the rate of plant photosynthesis – the process underpinning plant growth.

The findings suggest that, in the future, the ability of plants to absorb the CO2 emitted by humans may be “substantially reduced”, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

At present, the land takes in 30% of the greenhouse gases emitted by humans, according to a recent landmarkreport by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The findings “do a credible job of bringing the increasing water stress on plants to the fore”, another plant scientist tells Carbon Brief.

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