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      Hidden shift of the ionome of plants exposed to elevated CO2 depletes minerals at the base of human nutrition

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      eLife
      eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd

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          Abstract

          Mineral malnutrition stemming from undiversified plant-based diets is a top global challenge. In C3 plants (e.g., rice, wheat), elevated concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (eCO2) reduce protein and nitrogen concentrations, and can increase the total non-structural carbohydrates (TNC; mainly starch, sugars). However, contradictory findings have obscured the effect of eCO2 on the ionome—the mineral and trace-element composition—of plants. Consequently, CO2-induced shifts in plant quality have been ignored in the estimation of the impact of global change on humans. This study shows that eCO2 reduces the overall mineral concentrations (−8%, 95% confidence interval: −9.1 to −6.9, p<0.00001) and increases TNC:minerals > carbon:minerals in C3 plants. The meta-analysis of 7761 observations, including 2264 observations at state of the art FACE centers, covers 130 species/cultivars. The attained statistical power reveals that the shift is systemic and global. Its potential to exacerbate the prevalence of ‘hidden hunger’ and obesity is discussed.

          Abstract

          Rice and wheat provide two out every five calories that humans consume. Like other plants, crop plants convert carbon dioxide (or CO2) from the air into sugars and other carbohydrates. They also take up minerals and other nutrients from the soil.

          The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere that has happened since the Industrial Revolution is thought to have increased the production of sugars and other carbohydrates in plants by up to 46%. CO2 levels are expected to rise even further in the coming decades; and higher levels of CO2 are known to lead to lower levels of proteins in plants. But less is known about the effects of CO2 levels on the concentrations of minerals and other nutrients in plants.

          Loladze has investigated the effect of rising CO2 levels on the nutrient levels in food plants by analyzing data on 130 varieties of plants: his dataset includes the results of 7761 observations made over the last 30 years, by researchers around the world. Elevated CO2 levels were found to reduce the overall concentration of 25 important minerals—including calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron—in plants by 8% on average. Furthermore, Loladze found that an increased exposure to CO2 also increased the ratio of carbohydrates to minerals in these plants.

          This reduction in the nutritional value of plants could have profound impacts on human health: a diet that is deficient in minerals and other nutrients can cause malnutrition, even if a person consumes enough calories. This type of malnutrition is common around the world because many people eat only a limited number of staple crops, and do not eat enough foods that are rich in minerals, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. Diets that are poor in minerals (in particular, zinc and iron) lead to reduced growth in childhood, to a reduced ability to fight off infections, and to higher rates of maternal and child deaths.

          Loladze argues that these changes might contribute to the rise in obesity, as people eat increasingly starchy plant-based foods, and eat more to compensate for the lower mineral levels found in crops. Looking to the future, these findings highlight the importance of breeding food crops to be more nutritious as the world's CO2 levels continue to rise.

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          Most cited references148

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          MORE EFFICIENT PLANTS: A Consequence of Rising Atmospheric CO2?

          The primary effect of the response of plants to rising atmospheric CO2 (Ca) is to increase resource use efficiency. Elevated Ca reduces stomatal conductance and transpiration and improves water use efficiency, and at the same time it stimulates higher rates of photosynthesis and increases light-use efficiency. Acclimation of photosynthesis during long-term exposure to elevated Ca reduces key enzymes of the photosynthetic carbon reduction cycle, and this increases nutrient use efficiency. Improved soil-water balance, increased carbon uptake in the shade, greater carbon to nitrogen ratio, and reduced nutrient quality for insect and animal grazers are all possibilities that have been observed in field studies of the effects of elevated Ca. These effects have major consequences for agriculture and native ecosystems in a world of rising atmospheric Ca and climate change.
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            • Record: found
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            Biofortification—A Sustainable Agricultural Strategy for Reducing Micronutrient Malnutrition in the Global South

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              • Abstract: not found
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              Impact of CO2fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe's warm, arid environments

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                eLife
                eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
                2050-084X
                May 07 2014
                May 07 2014
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Mathematics Education, The Catholic University of Daegu, Gyeongsan, Republic of Korea
                Article
                10.7554/eLife.02245
                66e1f9d2-ff68-4dc9-92ef-8dc824fe53c8
                © 2014

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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