Plants don’t absorb as much CO2 as expected, study finds

Those who tout tree-planting as the answer to all the earth’s problems may have to go back to the drawing board (the planting board?): A new study in Nature finds that carbon dioxide-absorbing plants can’t hoover up quite as much of the greenhouse gas as had been hoped, at least not without some artificial juicing of the plants’ nitrogen intake. Sorry, dreamers … oh, there are no dreamers left? Sigh. Computer models have counted on vegetation to absorb much of the CO2 humans spew into the atmosphere. But the six-year study finds that terrestrial plants would need extra nitrogen in order to absorb extra CO2, and much of the world’s soil isn’t up to the job of providing it. “This suggests a less optimistic scenario for how much of the elevated CO2 the plant systems can soak up,” says researcher Peter B. Reich, raising his voice to be heard over the collective weeping of environmentalists.