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Posted Mon Oct 1 2012: from Nature:
Earth's carbon sink downsized
As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to climb, most climate models project that the world's oceans and trees will keep soaking up more than half of the extra CO2. But researchers report this week that the capacity for land plants to absorb more CO2 will be much lower than previously thought, owing to limitations in soil nutrients. Because plants take up CO2 during photosynthesis, it has long been assumed that they will provide a large carbon "sink" to help offset increases in atmospheric CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Some scientists have argued that the increase might even be good for plants, which would presumably grow faster and mop up even more CO2. Climate models estimate that the world's oceans have absorbed about 30 percent of the CO2 that humans have released in the past 150 years and that land plants have gulped another 30 percent. But the latest study, by ecologists Peter Reich and Sarah Hobbie at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, suggests that estimates of how much CO2 land plants can use are far too optimistic.
[Read more stories about: anthropogenic change, carbon emissions, carbon sinks, climate impacts]
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