New study by Australian scientists has revealed that plants may increase global temperatures. The study states that heatwaves in northern hemisphere may become five degrees warmer than previously thought. That is because there has been a miscalculation as to plants’ response to higher carbon dioxide.

As greenhouse gas atmospheric levels increase, plants won’t open their stomata (tiny pores) as much to take in carbon dioxide and let water vapour out. There will be a net warming effect as less CO2 will be lost.

The researchers took 314 plant data from 56 field sites to understand how plants responded to heatwaves. It was assumed by existing climate models that all plants would trade water for carbon dioxide in the same way.

The study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, showed that certain plant types could increase temperatures in China and Europe from three to five degrees Celsius. Different plants use different water-releasing strategies. Some release less water to the atmosphere thereby increasing the temperature and intensifying the heatwaves.

Lead author Jatin Kala from Murdoch University is of the opinion that maximum that agricultural lands, tundra and needle-leaf forests will suffer the most as maximum temperature change will happen there. Kala believes that this new study will improve current climate models.

Researchers used the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) model developed by ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Bureau of Meteorology. The study may also help in the development of new vegetation models around the world.

“This long-term investment in key infrastructure is why Australian science continues to punch above its weight. It’s an investment with many public benefits for us and the rest of the world, that every Australian can be proud of,” said Andy Pitman, Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science at UNSW.

However, the results may not apply to Southern Hemisphere as there haven’t been scientific observations on how Australian vegetation responds to increasing CO2 levels.