There's a growing threat to accelerated global warming right here in South Carolina. And it really is a growing threat, as any observant motorist can see along our rural byways. Kudzu is a botanical villain of long standing in this state and elsewhere in the South, as it consumes farm and forest by its rapid growth over the landscape. Its reputation will take another dip with the recent findings of two Clemson University researchers.
Kudzu releases carbon in the soil at an accelerated rate, compared to native species, according to Clemson ecologist Nishanth Tharayil and graduate student Mioko Tamura. Consequently, kudzu causes the release of an estimated 4.8 metric tons of carbon annually, or a volume equivalent to burning 5.1 billion pounds of coal.
"Our findings highlight the capacity of invasive plants to effect climate change by destabilizing the carbon pool in soil and show that invasive plants can have profound influence on our understanding to manage land in a way that mitigates carbon emissions," Mr. Tharayil said. Their research paper was published in the scientific journal New Phytologist.
Japanese knotweed is another problem plant on the global warming front, the researchers found.
And the problem might get worse, since global warming is expected to bring more invasive plants to South Carolina.
The Environmental Protection Agency has recently taken steps to limit coal burning because of global warming.
If only the agency could ban kudzu.