­

How Climate Change Makes Poison Ivy Stronger

Climate change isn’t just warming the oceans and endangering polar bears.

It’s also breeding larger, more toxic poisonous plants. 

Plants basically need three things to grow: sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. For millions of years, the supply of each of these ingredients remained relatively steady. Then came the Industrial Revolution, and people started burning fossil fuels to power their factories and vehicles, and heat and cool their homes. Today, there is more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than at any other time in human history.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture wanted to see how this atmospheric disturbance affected plant health. In the depths of Duke Forest, they planted giant rings of PVC pipes, which rose out of the forest floor all the way up to the top of the tree canopies. Through holes in the pipes, the scientists released either copious amounts of carbon dioxide or equivalent rations of ambient air. 

After six years, they found that poison ivy grew 149 percent faster in the presence of elevated levels of the greenhouse gas than it did under normal conditions. Not only did the supercharged plants grow larger, but they also produced more urushiol, the compound responsible for its characteristic itchy rash.

Follow-up studies have shown that the nasty weed’s growth and potency have doubled over the last fifty years.

That’s particularly bad news for […]

By |July 26th, 2017|Climate Change|0 Comments