Dirty skies make plants grow, slow down climate change

Dirty skies make plants grow, slow down climate changeVienna  - Plants grow better and absorb more carbon dioxide under hazy skies, a team of European researchers said Wednesday, presenting a study in Vienna that may affect strategies against climate change.

It has been known for some time that man-made particles in the air slow down the heating of the atmosphere by reflecting the sun's heat.

But the new findings, published in this week's edition of Nature magazine, show that diffused light also reaches more of a plant's surface, leading to an increased absorption of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is one of the so-called greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

"Surprisingly, the effects of atmospheric pollution seem to have enhanced global plant productivity by as much as a quarter from 1960 to 1999," said lead author Lina Mercado of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Britain.

The study also involved scientists from Britain's national meteorological service, the University of Exeter and from the university ETH Zurich, and was presented Wednesday at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.

The researchers said that their findings have implications for current efforts to avoid climate change. If efforts to clean up the air succeed, even steeper cuts of carbon dioxide emission will be needed, the scientists said. (dpa)