CO2 good for rainforests, according to a report in Nature News 11 Nov 2010 and Science vol. 330, p957, 12 Nov 2010. Rising carbon dioxide levels and global warming have been claimed to be threatening biodiversity in rainforests. To test this claim Carlos Jaramillo, a palaeobiologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and colleagues have looked at what happened to rainforests when conditions were warmer with higher carbon dioxide in the past. Jaramillo’s team analysed fossilised pollen in rock cores from rainforests in Colombia and Venezuela that have been dated to a period known as the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. During this time the world was 3 to 5 degrees Celsius warmer and atmospheric carbon dioxide more than double today’s levels. They found there was an increase in biodiversity, not a decrease. Jaramillo explained: “What we found was exactly the opposite of what we were expecting. The diversity of the tropical forest increased really fast over a very short amount of time.” According to Nature News the “increased temperatures and carbon dioxide caused a burst of evolution” and “the pollen fossil record shows that some important plant families, such as Myrtaceae, which includes eucalyptus, and Passifloraceae — the passion flowers — made their first appearance during the thermal maximum”. Guy Harrington, a palaeobiologist at the University of Birmingham, UK commented that the effect may only be good for tropical forests and not for higher latitudes. He also warned that “uninformed climate sceptics” could use this as evidence for not taking action on global warming. Jaramillo responded: “Of course I’m worried some people will look at this and say ‘we shouldn’t care about global warming’, but this is what the fossil record is telling us.” He went on to say: “Deforestation is the real enemy, not the increase in temperature and carbon dioxide.”

Editorial Comment: Jaramillo is correct about the real threat to the world’s forests being people cutting down trees and not replacing them. Creation Research is currently conducting experiments on the effects of increased carbon dioxide on plants as part of our Jurassic Ark project, and our initial results indicate doubling carbon dioxide really does have a growth boosting effect. We agree that warm, carbon dioxide rich conditions are good for plant growth, and such conditions would produce an environment of abundant lush vegetation, which would be good for animal life as well. However, heat and carbon dioxide cannot make any species evolve. (Ref. climate, palynology, botany, biodiversity)

Evidence News 24 Nov 2010