Variety of forest plants in fall.

MN Impact: Scientists Measure Plant Respiration and Its Affect on Climate Change

August 29, 2018

Objective

Research will develop new knowledge and technologies related to climate change. (Measure: number of new crop varieties and genotypes with climate adaptive traits; the number of new assessment and management tools developed, including models and measurements; the number of new climate-relevant databases, monitoring systems, and inventories managed or under development).

Issue

To develop global carbon cycling models, scientists require accurate information regarding sources of carbon dioxide release.

What has been done

Scientists, including researchers from the University of Minnesota, used data from the comprehensive GlobRespdatabase, which houses over 10,000 measurements of carbon dioxide plant respiration from plant species around the globe. By merging this data with existing computer models of global land carbon cycling they found that plant respiration has been a potentially underestimated source of carbon dioxide release.

Results

The study shows that across the world, carbon release by plant respiration may be around 30 percent higher than previously predicted. As mean global temperature increases, the researchers estimate that respiration will increase significantly. Such increases may lower the future ability of global vegetation to offset carbon dioxide emissions caused by burning fossil fuels.

Incorporating this new knowledge on plant respiration will be essential to developing accurate climate models.