SOURCE: Michigan State University

DATE: September 13, 2018

SNIP: Current climate change models might be overestimating how much carbon dioxide plants can suck from the atmosphere.

Thanks to molecular research on photosynthesis done at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), non-MSU atmospheric scientists have factored in a lesser understood photosynthetic limitation into their models.

The result: models suggest that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations might increase more rapidly than previously expected.

“When photosynthesis gets too much carbon dioxide, it can’t process it into sugars fast enough,” says Tom Sharkey, University Distinguished Professor at the PRL. “Photosynthesis cannot indefinitely increase its productivity levels. It reaches a ceiling, and more carbon dioxide won’t help. In fact, plants sometimes absorb less carbon dioxide as levels increase in the atmosphere.”

The prognosis is more alarming than we previously thought. We need to better understand TPU limitation, because it is affected by many factors. So far, we know the limitation is worse at high light levels, when temperatures are colder, and at high carbon dioxide levels.”