Poison ivy seen as thriving on carbon dioxide

Bob Tippee
Editor

As if rising sea levels and malaria plagues weren't frightening enough, the world has another malign effect of global warming over which to panic: poison ivy.

News media recently reported a Duke University study showing that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide accelerate growth of the obnoxious vine through aerial fertilization. Worse, they increase potency of the substance that causes itchy rashes.

Until now, supporters of aggressive warming prevention have scoffed at suggestions that CO2 enrichment of the atmosphere might promote plant growth. Their political agenda treats CO2 as a thoroughgoing scourge and resists hints of potential benefits.

But aerial fertilization suits that agenda when the main beneficiary is a plant nobody likes.

The Duke study controlled CO2 levels in an experimental plot of a North Carolina forest. At rising levels, poison ivy grew faster and nastier. As another reason to fear global warming, the results became news.

As usual, however, things aren't that simple.

A study by Ronald Londre and Stefan Schnitzer of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee examined 45 years of data from 14 deciduous forests in southern Wisconsin to test the hypothesis that warming and CO2 enrichment should push lianas—woody vines such as poison ivy—toward Earth's poles. In that study liana growth decreased in forest interiors, with the decline accelerating as a function of distance from forest edges.

"Our findings suggest that forest fragmentation, not climate change, is likely resulting in the increase in liana abundance in northern deciduous temperate forests and that lianas may further increase in abundance and impact if the severity of forest fragmentation intensifies," the researchers said.

CO2 Science, an online magazine published by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change—which opposes aggressive prevention—opined on July 4 that the warming and increased CO2 fertilization of the Londre and Schnitzer study period accelerated tree growth in forest interiors enough to deprive lianas of light.

If so, poison ivy would seem not to be the only plant able to benefit from rising CO2 levels. But the implications for, say, global food supply are hardly frightening. They probably won't make the news.

(Online July 6, 2007; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

Related Articles

EPA leads investigation of crude discharge at BP Whiting refinery

03/26/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency took formal charge of investigation and cleanup efforts after an undetermined amount of crude oil spilled in...

HSC remains closed, fuel cleanup continues after barge collision

03/24/2014 The Houston Ship Channel (HSC) remained closed to unauthorized vessels Mar. 24 as the result of a temporary emergency safety zone being established...

Judge bars Anadarko e-mails as evidence in Macondo blowout hearing

03/21/2014 A federal district judge in New Orleans refused to accept e-mails between Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and BP PLC as evidence in a hearing to determine...

BOEM extends proposed higher offshore liability limit comment period

03/20/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management added 30 days to the public comment period for its proposed higher liability limit for offshore oil and ga...

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected