Carbon, warming, C4 vs C3 photosynthesis, and an interesting detective story

I came across an interesting story. A different perspective that brings together the mystery of the mega-fauna die-out in the last ice age, science-geek level photosynthesis details, global warming / climate change, crop science, and more. It was written sort of like a mystery story, but I think it merits consideration and more research.

The title of it is The Solution to Ice Age extinctions. The title is a joke, or at least a play on words and meaning, at a couple of level.

Ultra-short version: there is more than one type of photosynthesis, they operate at different efficiencies at different CO2 concentrations, different types of plants utilize different methods of photosynthesis, and different animals eat different types of plants. Nothing earth-shattering from each of these items individually. Very interesting when considered together, because organisms respond to changes in the environment.


8 thoughts on “Carbon, warming, C4 vs C3 photosynthesis, and an interesting detective story

  1. rolf:

    the key question is, do they all fart? methane, you know.

    hydro carbons are passe. it’s now the dreaded cow farts. which raises an obvious question.– what about the buffalo? and, the gnu’s? they all wandered all over the great plains (and beyond), and the serengeti in huge numbers, farting all the while. why no disastrous global warming in their “hay day.”

    john “hay day” jay

    • Well, the wildebeest are not a problem, because they are open-source, so we know all about them, and the hot air was let out a long time ago. The Buffalo have buffaloed New York for so long we’ll never find out about them. But the average of everything and nothing is just about enough.

    • Scribd doesn’t charge for this one.
      Your link is another excellent place for the same paper. Thanks.

      It’ll likely be up on Infogalactic before long.

  2. So to extrapolate your ultra-short version (because I haven’t had a chance to read the full paper … yet), rising CO2 levels don’t mean “ZOMGTHEENDOFALLLIFEONEARTH!!!!!” as previously claimed, but do mean that certain plant-and-animal food chains will fare better as the changing conditions turn to favor them, and others that fare better under current conditions will not fare quite as well. However, most-if-not-all will probably survive in the long term, even if the relative ratios and “dominant species” groups change. Does that sound about right?

    • Yes, that is a very good non-technical description of the paper.

      Specifically, grasses and sedges are the most common C4 plants that can survive at very low CO2 levels. At extremely low levels, they are about the only thing that survives. At higher CO2 levels, forests and more complex plants become relatively more competitive, and ecosystems become more complex, diverse, and interesting. Doubling the CO2 levels would be the best thing to happen to the planet in terms of biodiversity since… not sure when. A long time.

      • Makes sense. Grasses in particular are the simplest and most resource-efficient plants, so it’s logical that they would do best (compared to other plants) in low-resource (speaking of CO2 specifically, but also water and nutrients) environments.

        Of course, being simplest means they lack a lot of features which offer tremendous advantages to other, more complex and specialized plants, if (big if) conditions allow them to properly use them.

        It’s not that different from the animal kingdom, really. A cheetah wouldn’t survive long in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, but a cougar also wouldn’t survive long on the Serengeti. Neither is “better”; they’re just adapted to suit different environmental conditions.

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