Plants form an important role of the worldwide carbon cycle in which carbon is continuously recycled and reused by plants and animals, the oceans and land.
Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels and burning forests adds to the carbon dioxide in the air, disturbing the balance that keeps the planet warm.
Lisa Welp-Smith of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California, and her team came up with a new method for measuring how much carbon dioxide is absorbed and released by plants.
The team used oxygen isotope markers in carbon dioxide and more than 30 years of data from a worldwide network that analyzes air samples to measure changes in greenhouse gases, pollution and other factors.
The team’s finding suggests plants absorb 16 to 19 times mankind’s total carbon dioxide emissions, underscoring the powerful role they can play in regulating the climate.
Scientists might be able to predict climate change with more accuracy after discovering that plants consume carbon dioxide 25 percent faster than previously thought.
The finding, by an international team of researchers, could help refine efforts to fight global warming just at a time when U.N. talks are struggling to agree on a broader climate pact that will be the focus of a major meeting in December in South Africa.
Scientists say climate change will cause more extreme droughts, floods and rising sea levels and that nations must curb carbon pollution blamed for heating up the globe. Better and more accurate climate science can help change energy policies.
Welp-Smith and Colin Allison, an atmospheric chemist and one of the study’s authors, said that it was early to say how the new finding would affect climate change projections, in which supercomputer programs model how the climate will change.
The said study was published in the journal Nature.