Researchers plan to continue their study of carbon dioxide and tropical plants

What does increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere do to tropical plants. That is a pressing question considering that there are predictions that levels of the gas will double in the next 90 years.

Most people know that plants love carbon dioxide. They inhale it and exhale oxygen. Plant life along busy roadways sometimes shows the beneficial effects of increased carbon dioxide.

Klaus Winter and colleagues at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Center in Panamá are studying the question and have produced a review paper summarizing the current knowledge, said the institute.

The best way to answer the question is to put plants in a controlled atmosphere environment. Winter does that, said the institute.

Winter has published 20-plus peer-reviewed articles on how tropical seedlings and saplings respond to atmospheric and climate change, said the institute. 

His work, conducted primarily in open-top chambers and controlled-environment chambers thus far, shows that while growth responses to elevated carbon dioxide vary depending on soil conditions, tree species consistently become more efficient water users when exposed to greater concentrations, the institute added. 

“The challenge is now to scale up from seedling and saplings to the full-grown forest,” says Winter, as quoted by the institute. “Will trees grow faster in a CO2 enriched atmosphere? If so, will they turn over faster? Will the standing biomass of forests increase? Will species composition change?  Manipulative experimentations at a large scale are what we need, and we need them now.”

The review article in Functional Plant Biology is “Tropical forest responses to increasing atmospheric CO2: current knowledge and opportunities for future research.”

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