Rainforest tree eats up pollution
By Julian Siddle
BBC Science

A botanist in Brazil has found a plant that he claims may hold the key to reducing the amount of carbon
dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The plant was found in the Brazilian rainforest

Jatoba, or hymenaea, a rainforest tree, has been found to grow much faster in atmospheres with high levels
of carbon dioxide.

This could be important in fighting climate change, as carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that is
making the planet warmer.

Marcos Buckeridge, a scientist at Sao Paolo’s botanical gardens, told the BBC World Service's Discovery
programme of his findings.

We have to have the technology to provide for an emergency

Botanist Marcos Buckeridge

"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," Professor
Buckeridge explained.

"The first thing we saw was that photosynthesis doubled in the plants that were growing at the higher CO2

Carbon sink

The research has revealed a mechanism which could hold the key to the effectiveness of carbon sinks.

Jatoba tree thrives in high CO2 levels

These are based on the idea of planting more trees to absorb the huge amounts of atmospheric "pollution",
especially carbon dioxide.

It is a theory which appeals to the governments of many industrialised nations, as it seems far simpler than
the political and economic changes needed to make industry reduce emissions.

Simply planting large numbers of Jatoba trees may not be the answer, as they can take a very long time to
reach maturity and specimens 500 years old are not unknown.

But the finding is significant because Professor Buckeridge believes the mechanism that allows the Jatoba
to absorb more carbon dioxide could be isolated and applied to other plants.

This in turn could help lower the build-up of CO2.

But that idea is controversial, because it would in effect create a large number of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs).

"It will take years for us to understand how these things work," Professor Buckeridge conceded.

"I'm not saying we should have GMOs everywhere. But we have to be prepared.

"We should know what genes we have to change in order to increase carbon sequestration.

"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."

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