Global Plant Growth in Decline
Photo via flickr by s.alt
Global plant productivity that once was on the rise with warming temperatures and a lengthened growing season is now on the decline because of regional drought according to a new study of NASA satellite data.
Plant productivity measures the rate of the photosynthesis, the process in which green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue.
Compared with a 6 percent increase in plant productivity during the 1980s and 1990s, the decline observed over the last decade is only 1 percent. This shift could impact food security, biofuels and the global carbon cycle.
Researchers Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running of the University of Montana in Missoula discovered the shift based on the analysis of plant productivity data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite, combined with other growing season climate data, including temperature, solar radiation and water.
“This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth,” Running said.
Researchers want to continue monitoring these trends in the future because plant productivity is linked to shifting levels of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stresses on plant growth that could challenge food production.