How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Volume 5 Number 1:  2 January 2002

Temperature Record of the Week
This issue's Temperature Record of the week is from Dansville, New York. Visit our U.S. Climate Data section to plot and view these data for yourself.

Current Editorial
Biology Rules!: At long last we have a coupled atmosphere-vegetation model capable of exploring the consequences of increases in the air's CO2 content for regional weather conditions.  What it tells us in its initial application to the central grasslands of the United States is what we have long suspected, i.e., that the several biological effects of atmospheric CO2 enrichment may have a greater combined impact on climate than do its direct and indirect radiative effects, and that the net result may actually be a tendency for cooling.

Subject Index Summaries
Ice Sheets (Greenland): Is it true what they say about Greenland?  From what we read in the popular press, we can almost imagine a new breed of Viking hawking beach-front property there.  But buyer beware!

Stomatal Conductance (Grasses): As the air's CO2 content rises, most grassland species will likely exhibit reduced stomatal conductances, which together with the aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment often enhances vegetative water-use efficiency; and an ongoing increase in this latter parameter suggests that grasslands will expand further and further into deserts as the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere continues to rise.

Carbon Sequestration Commentary
Elevated CO2 Increases Leaf Longevity, Giving Plants Extra Time to Deposit More Carbon in Earth's Soil Bank System: Following on the heels of our last Carbon Sequestration Essay, we note that not only do plants work longer days in CO2-enriched atmospheres, they also work more days, as they lengthen their productive growing seasons.

Current Journal Reviews
Global Warming and Cheap Fossil Fuels: They're Good for You!: As we've indicated in many a Journal Review, cooler weather produces much more death and debilitating illness than does warmer weather in all parts of the world.  This week's example comes from Scotland, where economic disincentives to keep homes adequately warmed in winter may be breaking people's health and costing them their lives.

What Is the Likelihood of the Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapsing Sometime Soon?: We'd like to say zero; but perhaps we should be content with the same likelihood that all the gas molecules in the air at the next IPCC meeting will suddenly congregate in a single small corner of the conference room.  It could happen, but ...

Holocene Climate off the Coast of Nova Scotia: What's normal for this region?  Should it be warmer or colder than it is now?  Does the climate history of Canada's Atlantic Provinces provide any evidence for CO2-induced warming?  Are there signs of some other type of climate forcing, such as might be provided by something that varies periodically and recurs at regularly-spaced intervals?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Long-term Effects of Elevated CO2 on Photosynthesis in Mature Oak Trees: The planting of trees to sequester carbon has periodically come under attack by groups that have suggested they will have little to no effect on removing carbon from the atmosphere.  The data in this paper tell a radically different story.

Elevated CO2 Alleviates Drought Stress in Wheat: In a two-year FACE experiment, CO2-enriched wheat plants consistently exhibited higher (less negative) leaf water potentials at any given soil water potential than did ambiently-grown plants, indicative of their enhanced ability to cope with water stress during drought conditions.