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Parts of tropical rainforests could get too hot for photosynthesis, study suggests

By illuminem briefings 🌎

Aug 24 2023 · 1 min read

Illuminem Voices
Environmental Sustainability · Climate Change · Effects

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🗞️ Driving the news: A recent study published in Nature has discovered that leaves in tropical forests, stretching from South America to South East Asia, are heating up to temperatures that may prevent them from photosynthesizing, potentially impacting the global forest ecosystem

🔭 The context: Photosynthesis, the process by which leaves produce energy using carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water, is compromised when the leaf temperature exceeds approximately 46.7°C (116°F)
• The study employed thermal satellite sensors from the International Space Station and on-the-ground leaf-warming experiments to gauge the temperatures leaves were reaching

🌎 Why does it matter for the planet: Rising leaf temperatures in tropical forests, which constitute 12% of Earth and over half its species, may compromise their critical roles in carbon storage and climate regulation, even if just 0.01% exceed crucial thresholds

⏭️ What's next: If global warming continues unabated, up to 1.4% of leaves could surpass the critical temperature, potentially leading to large-scale leaf loss and entire tree death
• While the expected warming under current policies should not reach this threshold, unchecked fossil fuel consumption could push us closer to this grim scenario

💬 One quote: “Almost all life – including humans – is dependent on photosynthesis for food either directly or indirectly. Global warming is putting this vital process at risk.” (Kevin Collins, senior lecturer at the Open University)

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