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More CO2, fewer droughts? It could happen

Ryan McVay | Stone | Getty Images

A study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has shown that plants requiring less water could help to mitigate the "drying effect" of a future warmer climate.

According to a news release from the USGS on Monday the study, published in Nature Climate Change, showed that while carbon dioxide is "the main driver of climate warming" it is also a key "food" for plants.

With air that has more carbon dioxide, plants will not need to open the pores of their leaves as much as would be necessary in a lower carbon dioxide environment, the USGS said.

"The one big job of leaves is to take in food in the form of carbon dioxide," Chris Milly, a USGS scientist and one of the study's authors, said in a news release.

"But the execution of this process allows water to leak out of the leaves," Milly added. "Well-fed plants don't need such leaky leaves to get their food, so they leave more water in the ground, where it can both support streamflow and recharge groundwater supplies."

The USGS' release went on to say that this "slight" but nevertheless important increase in the presence of water in soil could result in future droughts being "less frequent and less intense than many past studies have predicted."

The impacts of drought can be significant. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that economic losses as a result of drought in 2012 were "in the billions."