CSIRO scientists have found that increasing CO2 levels have caused increased plant growth in the world’s most arid regions.
Satellite observations show there has been an 11% rise in plant cover in the arid zones of Australia, the Middle East, North America and Africa. Higher CO2 levels encourage more plant growth as each leaf can extract more carbon dioxide and/or lose less water during photosynthesis. When this food production process takes less water, plants in very dry environments can produce more leaves. The study also found that Australia’s native vegetation is more sensitive than most to increasing CO2 levels.
Sophisticated mathematical modelling was used to control for other possible causes, such as higher rainfall, air temperatures, or light.
While increased plant cover in arid zones could be good in some ways, it also could have bad effects, such as causing woody vegetation to encroach into native pastures or reducing the amount of surface water available for animals.
More information at CSIRO