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Deep-rooted plants have much greater impact on climate than experts thought

her have a large impact on the climate over the region. The increased moisture in the soil created by hydraulic redistribution during the dry season allows the plant to carry on photosynthesis at a higher rate, leading to greater carbon uptake. This also leads to greater evaporation from the leaves of water, which takes heat with it. Thus, the summer dry-season temperatures are cooler than would be expected.

"When Jung-Eun incorporated this into the global climate model, we were better able to explain our observations and may be able to even predict future climate behavior," Dawson said.

Because these plants store water in the rainy season for use in the dry season, decreased precipitation during the wet season, as occurred in recent El Nino years, would be expected to lead to decreased photosynthesis during the following dry season, according to the researchers.

"There's this skin on the Earth - plants - that has an effect on a global scale, pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and letting water go, in a dynamic way that has climatic implications," Dawson said.

Dawson and Fung plan to continue their collaboration to improve the way that plants are represented in global climate models.


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Contact: Robert Sanders
rsanders@berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
11-Jan-2006


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