Through photosynthesis, plants use carbon dioxide to make oxygen and help regulate the amount of both gases in the atmosphere. Since plants grow faster and use more carbon dioxide when carbon dioxide levels are high, some people believe that plants can absorb much of the excess carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.
Dr. Bert Drake, plant physiologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center near Annapolis, Maryland, has studied plant responses to carbon dioxide under controlled conditions, longer than anyone else. He’s found that growing conditions such as the amount of rainfall can alter plants’ responses to carbon dioxide. Dr. Drake warns that there are limits to plant growth and to plants’ ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.