In some of the wettest parts of the Amazon rainforest, dry air may increase plant photosynthesis rates — a response that contradicts the assumptions of many climate models, according to a recent study published in Science Advances. When conditions are dry, plants attempt to retain water by closing the tiny pores on their leaves called stomata. But this also reduces the rate of photosynthesis, with knock-on effects for forest growth, carbon absorption, and large-scale weather patterns. That’s the theory, but data on how these dynamics play out at the scale of whole tropical forests is limited. An international team of researchers led by Julia Green, a postdoctoral researcher at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE) in France, used machine learning to cluster data from nine years of monthly satellite images of South and Central America into areas with similar climate, and modeled the relationship between air moisture and photosynthesis in each cluster. They found that dry tropical forests and savannas showed the expected pattern: photosynthesis slowed in dryer air. However, wetter areas of the Amazon basin displayed a reverse trend, with photosynthesis actually increasing as the air dried, an effect that became even more pronounced in the wet season. Plants can close the tiny pores in their leaves called stomata in response to dry conditions, reducing water loss but also slowing the rate of photosynthesis. Image by Jacko 999 via Visualhunt (CC BY-NC-SA). The researchers used sun-induced fluorescence (SIF), a measure of excess light energy released by…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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