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Earth's Arid Zones Are Absorbing CO2, Study Suggests

Update Date: Apr 07, 2014 01:24 PM EDT

The arid zones of earth constituting the most extensive ecosystems absorb significantly greater amount of emitted carbon dioxide, according to a new study.

Researchers in their study have exposed nine plots of land in California's Majave Desert for a period of 10 years to current CO2 levels and to those forecast for the year 2050. 

"It has pointed out the importance of these arid ecosystems," R. David Evans, a professor of biological sciences at Washington State University, said in a press release

"They are a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, so as CO2 levels go up, they'll increase their uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. They'll help take up some of that excess CO2 going into the atmosphere. They can't take it all up, but they'll help."

Arid regions comprise a wide band at 30 degrees north and south latitude. These regions receive less than 10 inches of rain every year.

The research team injected the grass through plastic tubes and excavated a meter of sand to check on the amount of carbon absorbed. 

According to the study "arid lands could increase the carbon uptake enough to eventually account for 15 to 28 percent of the amount currently being absorbed by land surfaces."

As the carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere increase the absorption of the gas by arid lands also increases, researchers added.

The study estimated that absorption could increase to the level representing 4 to 8 percent of current emissions.

The study appears in the journal Nature Climate Change

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