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California grasslands grow less under climate change

Picture of warming experiment at Jasper Ridge
Nona Chiariello
Sep 6 2016

Posted In:

Research, Faculty

In the course of a 17-year experiment on more than 1 million plants, Department of Biology scientists put future global warming to a real world test — growing California flowers and grasslands with extra heat, carbon dioxide and nitrogen to mimic a not-so-distant, hotter future. The results contradict those who insist that because plants like carbon dioxide — the main heat-trapping gas spewed by the burning of fossil fuels — climate change isn’t so bad, and will result in a greener Earth.  The plants that received extra carbon dioxide, as well as those that got extra warmth, didn’t grow more or get greener. They also didn’t remove the pollution and store more of it in the soil. Plant growth tended to decline with rising temperatures. The study was recently published in PNAS.  Kai Zhu, a former postdoc supervised by Professors Chris Field and Tad Fukami, is the lead author on the study.