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Mother Nature Fights Back Against Climate Change

May 15, 2015 01:37 PM EDT
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Humanity may be struggling to find ways of reducing carbon emissions, but it seems we are not going it alone, as Mother Nature is also fighting back in her own way against climate change.

That's at least according to a new study published in the journal Biogeosciences, which describes that as carbon emissions continue to climb, so too has Earth's capacity to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Although about half of the emissions of CO2 each year remain in the atmosphere, the other half is taken up by the ecosystems on land and the oceans.

For example, plants and other land vegetation take up CO2 via the natural process of photosynthesis - absorbing more of the greenhouse gas than scientists previously thought. And researchers are now just beginning to understand how big of a role the world's river systems play in the uptake of CO2 in the global carbon cycle.

"There is no question that land and oceans have, for at least the last five and half decades, been taking up about half of the carbon emitted each year. The outstanding question is, Why? Most of the processes responsible for that uptake would be expected to slow down as Earth warms, but we haven't seen it yet," study co-author and senior scientist Richard A. Houghton, from the Woods Hole Research Center, said in a press release.

"Since the emissions today are three times higher than they were in the 1960s, this increased uptake by land and ocean is not only surprising; it's good news," he added. "Without it, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would be twice what it is, and climate change would be much farther along. But, there's no guarantee that it will continue."

Since 1956, when the monitoring of atmospheric CO2 concentrations began at Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO), many more stations have been added to measure the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and how it varies seasonally and geographically. This allows scientists to detect changes in the behavior of the global carbon cycle. Now, by showing how Mother Earth comes into play in regulating climate change, they can hopefully better assess carbon sinks on land and in oceans and improve climate models.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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