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The Climate Superheroes We Need
As a result of a changing climate, forests across the globe are facing increased threats from higher temperatures, pests, disease, and longer and more severe droughts. These threats increase the likelihood and severity of forest fires like those currently raging in the Amazon rainforest.
Luckily, a possible solution to these threats lies within trees’ DNA.
As Erik Stokstad writes in Science Magazine, several scientists are beginning to speak out about one possible solution – genetic engineering. GM trees can be developed to withstand widespread threats like pests, drought and higher temperatures. This innovation could also play a role in restoring natural forests by developing more resilient breeds of trees that have been all but wiped out by diseases like chestnut blight, which ravaged the American chestnut tree population in the early 20th century.
A decreasing number of live or viable trees also means fewer trees to absorb carbon in the atmosphere. When sickly trees die, they release additional carbon into the atmosphere, which had previously been stored in their roots. So, finding a way to grow more resilient trees would be a twofold solution to help combat climate change.
Beyond trees, researchers are also using gene editing – another innovative breeding method – to develop crop plants that have bigger, deeper roots that are incredibly effective at capturing carbon and keeping it sequestered in the soil for longer periods of time instead of releasing it into the atmosphere when farmers harvest their crops.
By embracing agricultural innovations like those listed above, there’s a real possibility of combating climate change and other pressing global challenges facing society today.