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Drought lowers world plant productivity

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Missoula, Mont. (UPI) Aug 20, 2010
Plant productivity around the world, once on the rise with warming temperatures and a longer growing season, is declining because of droughts, researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Montana analyzed NASA satellite data to discover the global turnaround of productivity, a NASA release said Friday.

Plant productivity is a measure the photosynthesis process green plants use to convert solar energy, carbon dioxide and water to sugar, oxygen and eventually plant tissue.

Researchers Maosheng Zhao and Steve Running said they expected to see similar results as global average temperatures continued to climb. Instead, they found the negative impact of regional drought overwhelmed the positive influence of a longer growing season, driving down global plant productivity between 2000 and 2009.

After a 6 percent increase in the 1980s and 1990s, plant productivity declined 1 percent in the last 10 years.

"We see this as a bit of a surprise, and potentially significant on a policy level because previous interpretations suggested global warming might actually help plant growth around the world," Running said. "This is a pretty serious warning that warmer temperatures are not going to endlessly improve plant growth."

Although the 1 percent decline is not large, it could affect food security, biofuels and the global carbon cycle, scientists say.

earlier related report
Russia lifts fire emergency in three regions, weather cools
Moscow (AFP) Aug 20, 2010 - Russia on Friday reported further success in containing the fires that ravaged the country for weeks as temperatures in Moscow plunged to 10 degrees Celsius, following its worst ever heatwave.

"President (Dmitry Medvedev) has ordered the lifting of the state of emergency in the Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow regions as well as Mordovia," the Kremlin said in a statement.

The situation in Nizhny Novgorod and Mordovia has caused major concern as fires had raged close to Russia's main nuclear research centre in the town of Sarov, which lies close to the administrative border of the two regions.

The state of emergency remains in the Ryazan region due to "a complicated situation related to peat bog fires," the statement said.

"The situation has practically normalised," President Dmitry Medvedev said on a visit to Armenia, in comments broadcast on state television.

Russia had introduced the state of emergency in seven regions and Medvedev last week lifted the state of emergency in Vladimir, Voronezh and Marii El regions.

The emergencies ministry said 288 fires covering an area of just over 9,000 hectares (22,200 acres) were still burning across Russia, down from 313 fires over an area of 11,200 hectares the day earlier.

At the peak of the crisis, some 200,000 hectares of land had been ablaze in forest and peat bog fires that killed over 50 people.

Russians in Moscow were meanwhile shivering from cold as temperatures in the city plunged to 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) Friday morning, a stark contrast to the numbers edging almost 40 degrees recorded the week earlier.

"Temperatures will go up but not by much," Tatyana Pozdnyakova, chief specialist with the Moscow Weather Bureau, told AFP.

"There has been an inflow of the cold Arctic air, that is why the temperatures are so low."

Temperatures would increase to 14-15 degrees Celsius later in the day and will also fluctuate until the end of the month, Pozdnyakova added.

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