The Role of CO2 in Changes on the African Savanna

Recent studies show that many of the world’s savannas, including famed southern African landscapes, are experiencing significant change as rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere favor the growth of trees over grasslands. READ MORE

 

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This sequence of three photographs, taken in South Africa over an 86-year period, vividly illustrates how a portion of African savanna has become increasingly covered by trees over time, which researchers say is largely the result of higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere boosting tree growth at the expense of grasses. The pictures were taken from the same vantage point on a savanna near Queenstown in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.

The top picture was taken in 1925, the middle in 1993, and the bottom in 2011. Recent studies have shown that the so-called "CO2 fertilization effect" is leading to an expansion of trees and shrubs into former grasslands in warm, arid landscapes worldwide.

(1925 photo by IB Pole-Evans/ South African National Biodiversity Institute; 1993 photo by Timm Hoffman/Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town; 2011 photo by James Puttick/Plant Conservation Unit, University of Cape Town)


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