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Gas Gobbling Trees

Scientists have invented fake trees that can clean up carbon dioxide emissions. Now Brazilian botanist Marcos Buckeridge has found a living tree that's a CO2 gas gobbler. The Jatoba is a rainforest tree that grows much faster in atmospheres with high levels of carbon dioxide.

"We took seeds and grew them in normal air, which has 360 carbon dioxide parts per million, and in parallel grew plantlets at 720 parts per million, which is the concentration expected for 2075," Buckeridge says. "The first thing we saw was that photosynthesis doubled in the plants that were growing at the higher CO2 concentration."

If Jatobas were planted in yards and along highways all over the world, we'd have less global warming. Planting trees to absorb CO2 is much easier than convincing factories not to pollute and consumers to drive hybrid cars. But we need to start planting soon, because the trees take a long time to mature (and all immature trees give out CO2 rather than absorb it). However, some Jatobas live to be 500 years old, so once planted, they'll last a long time.

Buckeridge thinks we may be able to genetically engineer other trees and plants to gobble up large amounts of CO2 too, once we understand how the Jatoba does it. "It will take years for us to understand how these things work," Buckeridge says. "We have to have the technology to provide for an emergency. We must be thinking of this research now; we do not know how high CO2 levels will be in 75 years' time."

We'll need lots of trees?real and fake?to survive Earth?s Future Climate.

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