A negative feedback loop has been identified by a new study published in Nature Geoscience.
Researchers found that plants release a higher amount of certain gases as temperatures warm. As this gas oxidizes in the atmosphere it sticks to aerosol particles, growing them into the larger-sized particles that reflect sunlight and also serve as the basis for cloud droplets. Just like aerosols from man-made emissions and volcanic eruptions, these biogenic aerosols have a cooling effect on the atmosphere.
The scientists collected data at 11 different sites around the world, measuring the concentrations of aerosol particles in the atmosphere, along with the concentrations of plant gases, the temperature, and estimates for the height of the boundary layer.
"Everyone knows the scent of the forest," says Ari Asmi, University of Helsinki researcher who also worked on the study. "That scent is made up of these gases." While previous research had predicted the feedback effect, until now nobody had been able to prove its existence except for case studies limited to single sites and short time periods, according to a report from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
The effect of this increase in plant emissions only reduces warming by 1 percent on global scale.
However, the study showed that the effect was much larger on a regional scale, counteracting possibly up to 30% of warming in more rural, forested areas where anthropogenic emissions of aerosols were much lower in comparison to the natural aerosols, according to the report.
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