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New method maps stressed plants across continents

Researchers have now found a way to measure the reaction of plants to drought on a very large scale. The study has involved investigations of entire continents and shows that drought, since the turn of the millennium, has resulted in stressed plants across large areas on several continents.
map
The map shows the measuring stations that have provided data for the study.

In a recent study, researchers from Lund University in Sweden and their colleagues have come up with a new way of measuring vegetation response to drought across continents. The study is based on tens of thousands of measurements via a global network of atmospheric carbon dioxide data. So far, this type of research on the connection between plants and drought has mainly been conducted on a geographical scale corresponding to the plant and ecosystem level. But thanks to an increasingly expanding atmospheric observation network, which measures a wide variety of atmospheric trace gases, a new method for diagnosing large-scale effects of drought on plants has now become possible.

“Our analysis shows that drought has led to stressed plants across large areas during periods of extreme drought in recent decades in Europe, the US and Russia”, says David Wårlind, one of the researchers behind the study.

Wårlind and his research colleagues have also compared current climate models with observation data and found that many of the current climate models seem to undersimulate the change in the relative exchange between carbon dioxide and water during extreme drought.

“This can therefore lead to the models underestimating the effects on the carbon cycle in future instances of drought, which are expected to be both more frequent and more difficult”, says David Wårlind, researcher in science at Lund University’s Faculty of Science.

Read the study

Lena Björk Blixt

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