Forests use human-made emissions to grow faster "carbon fertilization"

As atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases have continued to rise, tropical forests, like those found in Malaysia, have been absorbing roughly 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion, NASA found. Those rates are not only higher than previously estimated, they are also higher than those of the vast boreal forests found in northern regions, like Canada and Siberia—which are diminishing. “This is good news, because uptake in boreal forests is already slowing, while tropical forests may continue to take up carbon for many years,” said Dr. David Schimel, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory senior research scientist and lead author of a paper on the study.

Forests use human-made emissions to grow faster, which in turn reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—an effect known as carbon fertilization. They also remove up to 30 percent of airborne human emissions through photosynthesis. If those processes slowed down, the rate of warming would increase. Warming temperatures decrease water availability and increase larger and more frequent wildfires—which, in turn, release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The study is groundbreaking in its methodology, as it is the first to use a variety of models, technology, and data to create an “apples-to-apples” comparison carbon dioxide estimates between forests, NASA explained.

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