Can Plants Influence The Climate?

March 11, 1998

The Issue

Plants have a strong influence on our climate, because they control the fluxes of energy, water, and carbon dioxide between the earth's surface and the atmosphere. Humans may be unwittingly changing the earth's climate by altering the structure and functiong of plant communities through many actions including deforestation, increasing the atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and raising global temperatures.

The changes in vegetation that are most likely to influence the climate include: Reduced water loss (transpiration) at high CO2 concentrations which feeds back on rainfall, changes in the height or roughness of vegetation which affect wind speed, and changes in the of the vegetation albedo (or the degree to which plants reflect light) which affect surface temperatures. Scientists will address the influence of vegetation changes on climate at a meeting sponsored by GCTE/LUCC in Barcelona, Spain, on March 14-18, 1998.

The SciencePractical information: These ideas will be discussed on Day 3 (March 16) at 9:00 in the session 2 "Global change and ecosystem structure" and in the poster session following immediately.

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Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems Project (GCTE)

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