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The Greening of Asia
Reference
Ichii, K., Kondo, M., Okabe, Y., Ueyama, M., Kobayashi, H., Lee, S.-J., Saigusa, N., Zhu, Z. and Myneni, R.B. 2013. Recent changes in terrestrial gross primary productivity in Asia from 1982 to 2011. Remote Sensing 5: 6043-6062.

Background
The authors write that Asia "is characterized by a rapidly growing economy," and that China and India in particular "have recently experienced rapid economic growth and a large increase in CO2 emissions." But the greening of Asia is not something the continent's countries are doing to reduce those CO2 emissions. It's something the CO2 emissions are doing for Asia ... and for the rest of the planet's non-ice-bound land as well.

What was done
Ichii et al. begin their story by stating that "past changes in gross primary productivity (GPP) were assessed using historical satellite observations based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) onboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite series and four terrestrial biosphere models to identify trends and driving mechanisms related to GPP and NDVI in Asia."

What was learned
The nine researchers report that (1) approximately 40% of the continent's non-ice-covered land mass experienced a significant increase in the NDVI over the last 30 years, that (2) less than 5% of the studied regions exhibited decreasing vegetation trends, that (3) "increases in the NDVI are dominant in the sub-continental regions of Siberia, East Asia, and India," that (4) "simulations using the terrestrial biosphere models also showed significant increases in GPP, similar to the results for the NDVI, in boreal and temperate regions," that (5) "a modeled sensitivity analysis showed that the increases in GPP are explained by increased temperature and precipitation in Siberia," and that (6) "precipitation, solar radiation and CO2 fertilization are important factors in the tropical regions."

What it means
As the atmosphere's CO2 concentration continues to rise - thanks to the CO2 emissions of people the world over - Earth's terrestrial plants are photosynthesizing at ever greater rates while using water ever more efficiently, which phenomena are leading to a great Greening of the Earth that is literally transforming the planet - for the better - right before our eyes.

Reviewed 19 March 2014