Not just CO2: Rising temperatures also alter photosynthesis in a changing climate
From left, Caitlin Moore, Carl Bernacchi, and Katherine Meacham-Hensold
From left, Caitlin Moore, Carl Bernacchi, Katherine Meacham-Hensold
Photo by Claire Benjamin/RIPE project

URBANA, Ill. -- Agricultural scientists who study climate change often focus on how increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will affect crop yields. But rising temperatures are likely to complicate the picture, researchers report in a new review of the topic.

Published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the review explores how higher temperatures influence plant growth and viability despite the greater availability of atmospheric CO2, a key component of photosynthesis. Excessive heat can reduce the efficiency of enzymes that drive photosynthesis and can hinder plants’ ability to regulate CO2 uptake and water loss, the researchers write. Structural features can make plants more – or less – susceptible to heat stress. Ecosystem attributes – such as the size and density of plants, the arrangement of leaves on plants or local atmospheric conditions – also influence how heat will affect crop yields.

The review describes the latest scientific efforts to address these challenges.

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