PerspectiveClimate Change

Carbon Dioxide and Vegetation

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Science  21 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5342, pp. 1411
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5342.1411

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The effect of carbon dioxide on Earth's vegetation over time is both of historical interest and current importance. In his Perspective, Farquhar discusses results presented in the same issue by Street-Perrott et al. that describe how carbon dioxide levels have influenced the paleenvironmental history of high-altitude lakes and surrounding vegetation in East Africa. From the early record, it is apparent that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide over the last 13,000 years has allowed trees to grow in places that were once almost treeless, grassy heathland.