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Biomass boosting

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Cross-posted from The Great Beyond

Over at Canada’s Financial Post, Lawrence Solomon is excited about the increase in biomass over the past two decades.

Planet Earth is on a roll! GPP is way up. NPP is way up. To the surprise of those who have been bearish on the planet, the data shows global production has been steadily climbing to record levels, ones not seen since these measurements began.

GPP is Gross Primary Production, a measure of the daily output of the global biosphere —the amount of new plant matter on land. NPP is Net Primary Production, an annual tally of the globe’s production. Biomass is booming. The planet is the greenest it’s been in decades, perhaps in centuries.

Judging by his record Mr Solomon likes to find new, surprising stories that over turn the evil IPCC-led consensus on climate science. Not clear, though, that he’s very successful: this is neither new nor surprising. The work cited seems to be a 2004 paper by Steve Running and colleagues on monitoring NPP using the MODIS satellite data set (BioScience 54, 547-560 (2004) — pdf), so it’s hardly news. What’s more, everyone studying carbon dioxide levels agrees that there are “biological sinks” — places where more carbon-dioxide means more biomass, either because of the direct carbon-dioxide-fertilisation effect (it is, after all, plant food) or because the climatic effects are to the benefit of plants. Growth in sinks = growth in biomass. And a billion tonnes of carbon or so flowing into sinks every year will add up, over time. No denying that.


Same applies in oceans, too: The Wattsupwiththat blog, which on first inspection I would suspect has a similar agenda to Mr Solomon’s, has some nice animations on ocean productivity using SeaWiFs data. Again, no real surprise: here’s a relevant Nature paper (Behrenfeld et al, Nature 444, 752-755 (2006) — pdf)

There are a few years of data on this displayed at NASA’s Earth Observatory, and it sounds like they may have an updated product soon with MODIS and SeaWiFS data all in one place.

Image: Modis data for productivity in June 2006, from NASA Earth Observatory

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    nanny_govt_sucks said:

    While not new or surprising, the story of booming biomass rarely gets a mention in climate-related news reports.

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