Mummified leaves show how global greening came 23 million years ago

Mummified leaves show how global greening came 23 million years ago

The scientists are exploring a unique deposit in New Zealand, where mummified plant leaves were found, thay are about 23 million years old. Examining them, the scientists came to the conclusion that during that period, global greening took place on our planet. It was triggered by the high carbon content in the ambient air. For the first time, the science faced with a situation where high levels of CO2 in the air were directly related to the accelerated growth of plants.

The discovery allows for a better understanding of the impact of carbon dioxide on the environment and changes in the plant kingdom over time. The mummified leaves were retrieved from what was once the bottom of a lake.

It still contains the remains of plants, algae, spiders, fungi and other organisms from the warm period, which science calls the Early Miocene. The high level of CO2 proved to be effective for active photosynthesis. That is the first study to demonstrate the simultaneous course of completely different events. A Columbia University researcher Lamont Doherty says that the research is amazing. He noted that the mummified leaves retained their original chemical composition.

Combined with high levels of carbon dioxide, it looks like a paradox. The so-called carbon fertilization effect is of great importance. The experiments carried out in the laboratory showed that with an increase in the level of CO2 in the atmospheric air, some plant species are able to increase the rate of the photosynthesis.

They can remove carbon from the air and still save water. In 2016, as part of a study by NASA, satellite data showed the effect of global greening. It happened due to the increase in anthropogenic CO2 levels in recent decades.

The situation has been developing since about 1980, and during that time, up to half of the vegetated area of the planet has significantly increased the number of leaves on trees and shrubs. While it sounds like good news, it's actually much more complicated.

The increased absorption of carbon dioxide is unable to compensate for the effects of human activity. Not all plants can take advantage of this, the results depend on various factors - the temperature of the water, its abundance, the availability of nutrients.