Rising atmospheric CO2 and carbon sequestration in forests

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Abstract

Rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere could alter Earth's climate system, but it is thought that higher concentrations may improve plant growth through a process known as the “fertilization effect”. Forests are an important part of the planet's carbon cycle, and sequester a substantial amount of the CO2 released into the atmosphere by human activities. Many people believe that the amount of carbon sequestered by forests will increase as CO2 concentrations rise. However, an increasing body of research suggests that the fertilization effect is limited by nutrients and air pollution, in addition to the well documented limitations posed by temperature and precipitation. This review suggests that existing forests are not likely to increase sequestration as atmospheric CO2 increases. It is imperative, therefore, that we manage forests to maximize carbon retention in above- and belowground biomass and conserve soil carbon.

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