The Green Centre

Satellites are reporting something odd in outback Australia. The once-striking reds are turning a little green. It’s a similar story in other arid corners of the globe. Bathed in rising CO2 levels, plants are growing more lush.

Researchers have long suspected that rising carbon dioxide concentrations would green the planet. Now, a model developed by an Australian team confirms the connection. In work led by Randall Donohue at CSIRO in Canberra, published in Geophysical Research Letters, the team modelled plant response to the 14% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1982, factoring in other variables such as rainfall, light levels and changing land use.

In the already lush tropics, there wasn’t much predicted change. But in drier regions, the model predicted foliage would increase by 5-10% – not far from the 11% increase seen by satellite.

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