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In today’s constant study of carbon concentration in the atmosphere and its effect on climate change, a group of scientists from the University of California Davis have recreated the atmospheric record of carbon dioxide from more than 300 million years ago. Science Daily brings us in on the recently published study in Nature Geoscience as predictions of carbon dioxide levels could very well change as a result of the findings.

In observing an ancient time in which polar regions were completely covered by ice and tropical rainforests expanded, scientists have been able to identify an often overlooked relationship between climate change and plant response. Science Daily quotes the lead author of the study Isabel Moñtanez saying that “plants’ responses to climate can in turn impact climate itself, making for… unpredictable outcomes.” By looking at the reconstructed carbon dioxide record, the team found that tropical forest response to shifts in climate accounted “for the 100 to 300 parts per million changes in carbon dioxide estimated during the climate cycles of the period.” This is a result that, according to Moñtanez, most current projections don’t take into account, thus the magnitude of actual carbon dioxide fluctuations could be even higher than the record numbers we have already estimated.

With carbon dioxide rise in the last 100 reaching the level of “401 ppm [parts per million]” the concerns of “melting ice sheets, rising sea level, major climate change, and biodiversity loss” could be intensified if rainforest trees respond by releasing even more carbon dioxide. While frightening, this new insight could lead to more accurate predictions of atmospheric carbon concentration, and thus help us better prepare for the future.

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