Plant scientists have observed that when levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rise, most plants do something unusual: They thicken their leaves.
But the affects of this response go beyond thicker leaves on plants. Two University of Washington scientists have discovered that plants with thicker leaves absorb less carbon. This may make the effects of climate change worse. Climate change models have not yet taken this into account.
When the scientists included this information in global climate models, the global “carbon sink” contributed by plants was less productive. They left about 5.8 extra petagrams, or 6.39 million tons, of carbon in the atmosphere per year. Those levels are similar to the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere each year by humans — 8 petagrams, or 8.8 million tons.
Read more at University of Washington