Plants are taking in carbon at faster rates, CO2 levels hold steady

According to a study newly published in Nature, plants are slowing the rate at which CO2 collects in the atmosphere, doing so at rates that have increased over past decades. This doesn't mean the levels have stopped increasing or are reversing, keep in mind. Rather, CO2 continues to rise but at rates that are now more or less holding steady while emissions resulting from human activities have slowly decreased. Overall, atmospheric CO2 levels are still increasing, but much more slowly due to these plants.

The study was led by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, and involved looking at both atmospheric and ground CO2 levels, as well as vegetation as recorded by satellites, the combination of which was plugged into a computer model. Using this data, the team found that CO2 atmospheric increases stayed right around 1.9 parts per million each year from 2002 through 2014.

Emissions continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere, however the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere resulting from these activities is down 20-percent. The combination of that decline and the increased work from trees and plants means that levels are mostly holding steady despite continued emissions. We have increased 'photosynthetic activity' on the ground to thank for that.

It seems that the increase in emissions triggers the increase in activity among plants that takes in the carbon, helping the plants grow which itself results in even greater plant activity for even greater carbon uptake. Even better, this uptake activity is growing at a faster rate than plant 'respiration,' which itself outputs CO2 — meaning though plants are taking in more emissions, they aren't putting out an equal amount of their own carbon.