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Natural Awakenings

Greening Planet: Satellites Reveal Unexpected Plant Growth

Nov 30, 2016 12:33PM

Somchai Som/Shutterstock.com

The study Greening of the Earth and its Drivers, published by an international team in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows significant greening of a quarter to one-half of the Earth’s vegetated lands based on satellite data from the past 33 years. This represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees that produce sugars using sunlight energy to mix atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) with water and nutrients from the soil.

These sugars are the source of food, fiber and fuel for life on Earth. More sugars are produced when there is more of this greenhouse gas in the air in a process called CO2 fertilization.

About 85 percent of the Earth’s land is free of ice and covered by vegetation, currently encompassing 32 percent of the planet’s total surface area. Lead author Dr. Zaichun Zhu, a researcher from Peking University, in China, states, “The greening over the past 33 years reported in this study is equivalent to adding a green continent about two times the size of mainland USA, and has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system.” The effect may serve as a carbon sink to help counter climate change.


Source: Boston University


This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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