Atmospheric drying will lead to lower crop yields, shorter trees across the globe


A global observation of an ongoing atmospheric drying — known by scientists as a rise in vapor pressure deficit — has been observed worldwide since the early 2000s. In recent years, this concerning phenomenon has been on the rise, and is predicted to amplify even more in the coming decades as climate change intensifies.

The research from the University of Minnesota and Western University in Ontario, Canada, outlines global atmospheric drying significantly reduces productivity of both crops and non-crop plants, even under well-watered conditions. The new findings were established on a large-scale analysis covering 50 years of research and 112 plant species.

“We believe a climate change-driven increase in atmospheric drying will reduce plant productivity and crop yields — both in Minnesota and globally,” said Sadok.

In their analysis, researchers suspected plants would sense and respond to this phenomenon in unexpected ways, generating additional costs on productivity. Findings bear out that various plant species — from wheat, corn, and even birch trees — take cues from atmospheric drying and anticipate future drought events.

Through this process, plants reprogram themselves to become more conservative — or in other words: grow smaller, shorter and more resistant to drought, even if the drought itself does not happen. Additionally, due to this conservative behavior, plants are less able to fix atmospheric CO2 to perform photosynthesis and produce seeds. The net result? Productivity decreases.

> Source: EurekAlert!