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Two recent studies have suggested that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels may have been influenced by the recent boost in agricultural crops, particularly corn. There is a special “breathing” pattern that is present in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet and during the past 50 years, the pattern seems to have deepened.
During the normal seasonal cycle, plants breathe in large amounts of carbon dioxide throughout their growing season and release it when summer comes to an end. What has happened over the last 50 years, two independent studies claim, is that there was an increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that are being taken up and given back. The cause for the increase: farming. Anywhere between 20 and 50 percent of this long-term increase, scientists say, is caused by the incredible boost in crops, particularly corn, maize, soy and wheat. Corn was the all-around winner.
As compared to World War II, US corn crops now yield five times as much and scientists such as Ning Zeng, with the Earth Systems Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland , wonder whether such advancements have also affected our planet’s “metabolism”.
“We know that crops have increased in productivity over this time period and they were in the right place to be influencing this,”
Dr. Gray said.
Global warming has also influenced this carbon cycle. Because of summers that are warmer and stretching out longer, crops can extend their growing period. Moreover, vegetation is also spreading to latitudes where it normally wouldn’t be in such abundance.
A recent video releases by NASA condenses data collected throughout an entire year, showing exactly how the CO2 breathing pattern occurs.
Both teams explain that the wide use of fertilizers and all-around increase in crop productivity is what is causing such a significantly larger upswing, not the growth of planted acres dimensions. This only shows that human-influences where the planet’s CO2 cycle is concerned were severely underestimated.
Although previous research conducted by scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla had suggested that the larger fluctuations could be attributed to an increase in forest size, most recent studies imply that farming is in fact responsible for the massive upswing. It is however true that these studies still have to hold up to scrutiny.