Literally thousands of laboratory and field experiments have conclusively demonstrated that enriching the air with carbon dioxide stimulates the growth and development of nearly all plants. They have also revealed that higher-than-normal CO2 concentrations dramatically enhance the efficiency with which plants utilize water, sometimes as much as doubling it in response to a doubling of the air's CO2 content. These CO2-induced improvements typically lead to the development of more extensive and active root systems, enabling plants to more thoroughly explore larger volumes of soil in search of the things they need. Consequently, even in soils lacking sufficient water and nutrients for good growth at today's CO2 concentrations, plants exposed to the elevated atmospheric CO2 levels expected in the future generally show remarkable increases in vegetative productivity, which should enable them to successfully colonize low-rainfall areas that are presently too dry to support more than isolated patches of desert vegetation.
Elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 also enable plants to better withstand the growth-retarding effects of various environmental stresses, including soil salinity, air pollution, high and low air temperatures, and air-borne and soil-borne plant pathogens. In fact, atmospheric CO2 enrichment can actually mean the difference between life and death for vegetation growing in extremely stressful circumstances. In light of these facts, it is not surprising that Earth's natural and managed ecosystems have already benefited immensely from the increase in atmospheric CO2 that has accompanied the progression of the Industrial Revolution; and they will further prosper from future CO2 increases.
Join us as we explore these and other important benefits that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are bestowing on plants. Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels should not be feared; they are something to be celebrated!
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