How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Elevated CO2 and Plant Water Relations - A Review
Wullschleger, S.D., Tschaplinski, T.J. and Norby, R.J.  2002.  Plant water relations at elevated CO2 - implications for water-limited environments.  Plant, Cell and Environment 25: 319-331.

What was done
The authors reviewed the results of a number of scientific studies designed to determine how plant water relations are affected by elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations under water-limited conditions.

What was learned
The authors determined that plants grown in elevated CO2 typically display reductions in stomatal conductance, which often lead to reductions in transpirational water loss.  These responses commonly result in CO2-enriched plants exhibiting higher (less negative and, therefore, less stressful) leaf water potentials than ambiently-grown plants, which is indicative of the better overall plant water status enjoyed by CO2-enriched vegetation.  Plants grown in elevated CO2 also commonly exhibit increases in fine-root production, which should give them an advantage in accessing soil moisture.  Together, these several phenomena act to increase plant water-use efficiency and soil moisture availability, the latter of which consequences further enhances plant growth.

What it means
As the CO2 content of the air continues to rise, it is essentially assured that earth's plants will become ever more adept and efficient at acquiring and utilizing water to sustain themselves and successfully reproduce in water-limited environments.  Hence, the earth should become an ever more hospitable place for plants as time progresses, unless, of course, mankind's direct deleterious impacts on the biosphere do not allow the planet's vegetation to take advantage of this great benefit of the burning of fossil fuels.

Reviewed 24 July 2002