As the planet warms, people living in North America, parts of central and South America and Eurasia may face water shortages as plants adjust to higher levels of carbon dioxide.
According to researchers, approximately 60% of the transference of water from the land to the atmosphere occurs through plants. A recent study examined how the increased presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might impact the uptake and release of this water.
The study, published in Nature Geoscience, found that as the planet continues to warm, growing seasons will become both hotter and longer, which will require plants to grow for longer periods of time and consume more water. Increased levels of carbon dioxide also improve the ability of plants to photosynthesize, which will result in plants growing larger, and requiring more water to do so.
Ultimately, this could reduce the amount of freshwater available to humans.
Previously, scientists believed that the changing climate might push plants to conserve moisture, therefore leaving more water in the air.
However, researchers from Columbia University and Dartmouth College now believe that this applies only to plants in the tropics or extremely high latitudes.
The research gives new insight into the way that climate change will impact specific ecosystems and allows scientists to get a better prediction of the ecosystems’ resiliency.
This data also sheds light on how increased levels of carbon dioxide might impact human health, agriculture, energy production and industry through plant life and freshwater availability.