Drought Impact Study Shows New Issues for Plants and Carbon Dioxide


Multiple Earth Systems computer models assessed potential drought levels.

Extreme drought’s impact on plants will become more dominant under future climate change, as noted in a paper out today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Analysis shows that not only will droughts become more frequent under future climates, but more of those events will be extreme, adding to the reduction of plant production essential to human and animal populations.

“Even though plants can, in many cases, benefit from increased levels of carbon dioxide that are predicted for the future atmosphere, the impact of severe drought on destroying these plants will be extreme, especially in the Amazon, South Africa, Mediterranean, Australia, and southwest USA,” said lead study author Chonggang Xu of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Future drought events are typically associated with low humidity, low precipitation, high temperature, and changes in carbon released from fire disturbances.

The frequency of extreme droughts (defined by low plant-accessible soil water) per year is predicted to increase by a factor of ~3.8 under a high greenhouse-gas emission scenario and by a factor of ~3.1 under an intermediate greenhouse-gas emission scenario during 2075–2099, compared to the historical period of 1850–1999.

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