Plants are releasing up to 30 percent more CO2 than we knew about, according to new research.
The research, co-authored by a University of Canterbury scientist, shows that plant respiration has been a potentially underestimated source of carbon dioxide release to the atmosphere.
Research also found that as global temperature increase, it's estimated that plant respiration will increase, and this could lower the future ability of global vegetation to offset carbon dioxide emissions caused by burning of fossil fuels.
People understand that plants take up carbon dioxide in photosynthesis, but less well known is that they also release it by respiration, says plant physiological ecology Professor Matthew Turnbull says.
"The increase in plant respiration could have a major impact on the net amount of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere, which we know is a major driver of the greenhouse effect," Prof Turnbull said.
The study used plant respiration data from over 100 remote sites around the world, from Australia, to North America and Europe, the Arctic tundra in Alaska, and the tropical forests of South America, Asia and Africa.