Projected increase in global runoff dominated by land surface changes
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The runoff of freshwater from the land into the sea is increasing, and it’s largely due to the effects of rising atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations and temperatures on plants.
Continental runoff is a key part of the global water cycle, but the complexity of this process has made it difficult to predict how it will change with climate change.
Now, a team led by researchers from Griffith University in Australia has used modelling to explore what factors are contributing to changes in runoff around the world.
Their results reveal the physiological responses of plants to increasing carbon dioxide — such as reducing water vapour loss from their leaves, and a loss of vegetation due to lower rainfall and rising heat — are responsible for around half the increase in freshwater runoff.
- Nature Climate Change 13, 442–449 (2023). doi: 10.1038/s41558-023-01659-8