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Tackling regional climate change by leaf albedo bio-geoengineering

Ridgwell, A., Singarayer, J. S., Hetherington, A. M. and Valdes, P. J. (2009) Tackling regional climate change by leaf albedo bio-geoengineering. Current Biology, 19 (2). pp. 146-150. ISSN 0960-9822

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.025

Abstract/Summary

The likelihood that continuing greenhouse-gas emissions will lead to an unmanageable degree of climate change [1] has stimulated the search for planetary-scale technological solutions for reducing global warming [2] (“geoengineering”), typically characterized by the necessity for costly new infrastructures and industries [3]. We suggest that the existing global infrastructure associated with arable agriculture can help, given that crop plants exert an important influence over the climatic energy budget 4 and 5 because of differences in their albedo (solar reflectivity) compared to soils and to natural vegetation [6]. Specifically, we propose a “bio-geoengineering” approach to mitigate surface warming, in which crop varieties having specific leaf glossiness and/or canopy morphological traits are specifically chosen to maximize solar reflectivity. We quantify this by modifying the canopy albedo of vegetation in prescribed cropland areas in a global-climate model, and thereby estimate the near-term potential for bio-geoengineering to be a summertime cooling of more than 1°C throughout much of central North America and midlatitude Eurasia, equivalent to seasonally offsetting approximately one-fifth of regional warming due to doubling of atmospheric CO2[7]. Ultimately, genetic modification of plant leaf waxes or canopy structure could achieve greater temperature reductions, although better characterization of existing intraspecies variability is needed first.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > Department of Meteorology
Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
ID Code:33542
Publisher:Elsevier

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