How does climate change affect Earth’s vegetation and carbon cycle?

Global warming in recent decades has given rise to numerous changes on Earth. One of these is in plants’ growth rate: Climate change has caused a spike in radiation from the sun and precipitation, which have, in turn, led to longer growth seasons. Analysis of data from the 1980s and 1990s shows that land vegetation in the world is growing at a faster rate (by 6%). As a result, vegetation absorbed more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the production process (i.e., the formation of organic compounds from carbon dioxide through photosynthesis) and aided in curbing its atmospheric levels. However, updated data from the past decade indicate that rising temperatures have also caused longer and more frequent droughts, which led to many plants’ death, and the consequential decline of about 1% in plant production. While this is not a major drop, a trend reversal could have a far-reaching impact on agriculture and the carbon cycle on Earth.

A video clip about how climate change affects vegetation and how plants affect the carbon cycle.


The video was produced by NASA.

By Haggai Caspi

The department of Chemical Biology

Weizmann Institute of Science