Carbon Dioxide Levels Affect Grasses Differently Than Expected

Ecology and Environment

MSI PI Peter Reich (professor, Forest Resources; Fellow, Institute on the Environment) was the lead researcher in a study, published this month in the prestigious journal Science, that showed unexpected growth performance of some types of grasses as carbon dioxide levels rise. This 20-year study investigated the response of two types of grasses, classified as C3 and C4 types, to elevated CO2 levels. The results from the first twelve years showed that C3 performed better under elevated CO2, as the researchers expected. However, during the last eight years, C4 grasses did better. This shift in the grasses’ growth performance was a surprise to the researchers and could be used to improve computer models of climate change.

An article about this research appears on the University News website: Research Brief: Grassland plants react unexpectedly to high levels of carbon dioxide. The paper can be found on the Science website: Unexpected reversal of C3 versus C4 grass response to elevated CO2 during a 20-year field experiment.

The Reich group uses MSI resources for a project to develop a new kind of global land computer model. The new model will be based on a plant functional trait approach, as opposed to current models that use a plant function type approach.