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Planting more trees is widely seen as one way to counter global climate change, as they are able to absorb carbon dioxide. But commercial forests — which are largely made up of fast-growing trees — present their own problem, namely the production of the chemical isoprene, which enhances the lifetime of another greenhouse gas, methane.

But trials carried out in Biosphere 2, a huge glass-and-metal structure near Tucson, Arizona, show that exposing a cottonwood plantation to increased levels of carbon dioxide actually reduced isoprene production by 40 per cent.

The research — published in this week's Nature — suggests that increases in global carbon dioxide levels could partially offset the negative impacts of massive "agroforests".

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