Air Pollution Helps Plants to Absorb More CO2

Washington, DC (April 23, 2009)- An article published in Nature found that increased atmospheric pollution has enhanced plant productivity by as much as a quarter since the 1960s, resulting in as much as 10 percent more CO2 uptake in the soil worldwide. It has been assumed that clear, sunny skies are ideal for the greatest plant growth, but the presence of clouds and pollution scatter the light in the process of diffuse radiation.

This results in fewer leaves left in total shade and an increase in photosynthesis. “Surprisingly, the effects of atmospheric pollution seem to have enhanced global plant productivity by as much as a quarter from 1960 to 1999,” said lead author Lina Mercado, a researcher at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Britain. Researchers acknowledge that this presents a dilemma when trying to clean the atmosphere of particle pollution as well as reduce the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
“As we continue to clean up the air- which we must do for the sake of human health- the challenge of avoiding dangerous climate change through reductions in CO2 emissions will be even harder,” said co-author Peter Cox, a researcher at Britain’s University of Exeter.
Related Resources:
BBC News- Pollution ‘fights global warming’
AP- Air pollution “helps plants blunt climate change”
Journal Nature- Impact of changes in diffuse radiation on the global land carbon sink