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Name: Kristen
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Question:
I heard somewhere that Global Warming is good for plants and trees. But isn't there a problem with high levels of CO2?


Replies:
Photosynthesis: basically, plants need CO2 + water and with the energy from sunlight produce O2 and food.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide#Role_in_photosynthesis
Metabolism or rates of photosynthesis generally increase with higher temperatures, so one can expect faster growth of plants. But as you hinted at, yes, greenhouse gases including CO2 and methane, etc., are contributing factors to global warming and climate change.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change#Greenhouse_gases
Global warming is a potential problem for plants since certain plant species need temperature optimums and would potentially need to migrate (fast enough) north or south depending upon their required optimum temperatures. At the same time, there are unknown factors including the possibly increased uptake of CO2 by plants including seaweed and algae in oceans but less CO2 uptake by plants in other situations; the role of clouds, and the complex factors that the sun and the earth's internal heat play in the whole scenario.

Anthony R. Brach, PhD
Missouri Botanical Garden
c/o Harvard University Herbariam



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