Climate Change Breakthrough: New Research Indicates Photosynthesis Enhanced Trees Grow Faster and Capture More Carbon

In a world first, Living Carbon releases whitepaper demonstrating the efficacy of a photosynthesis enhancement genetic trait to improve carbon capture and storage in trees

San Francisco,

San Francisco, California, Feb. 23, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Living Carbon, a public benefit company enhancing natural solutions in plants to improve carbon capture, has shared new research demonstrating that photosynthesis enhanced trees can capture 27% more carbon dioxide due to a faster growth rate and accumulation of 53% more biomass. Released in a whitepaper, these breakthrough findings demonstrate, for the first time in trees, the potential to capture more carbon in a shorter period of time and underscores the role of responsible biotechnology in rebalancing the planet’s carbon cycle. The goal of Living Carbon’s photosynthesis-enhancement research is to allow for commonly planted trees to photosynthesize with the same capacity as the most efficient 15% of plants.

The body of research, built on decades of research in the scientific community and collected over two years on multiple propagation cycles of photosynthesis enhanced hybrid poplar seedlings, showcases how this enhanced genetic trait could be a living climate solution ready for large-scale deployment. Targeting over 3000 acres of carbon projects with private landowners across the Southeast US, Living Carbon’s comprehensive research analysis is facilitating a new ecological and economic age where advanced biotechnology will be used to deliver profitable and scalable carbon removal solutions. 

Co-founded by Maddie Hall and Patrick Mellor, with the expertise of Chief Science Officer Yumin Tao, Living Carbon’s mission as a public benefit company is to meet the urgency of the climate crisis by using genetic engineering to build on billions of years of evolution to balance the climate in the timeframe we have.

Maddie Hall, Co-founder and CEO of Living Carbon says:  “We have surpassed the point where reducing emissions alone will be enough to rebalance our ecosystems and stabilize our planet. Now is the time for large-scale carbon removal. Our goal is to draw down two percent of global emissions by 2050 using approximately 13 million acres of land. Today’s research is just the first step in demonstrating how empowering ecology, through the responsible use of biotechnology in trees, can be a scalable and viable solution to the climate crisis.”

Living Carbon is building on what nature is already doing by asking the question, ‘are we capable of storing carbon with the same ingenuity that allowed us to release it?’ Some plants have naturally developed a similar method of photosynthesis efficiency increase, known as C4 photosynthesis, which relies on anatomical changes that are only possible in a certain group of plants. Living Carbon’s method achieves similar carbon capture results without requiring the necessity for elaborate anatomical changes, instead utilizing and enhancing natural processes. To grow faster, Living Carbon’s trees recycle a toxic byproduct of photosynthesis with less energy, capturing more CO2 over time.

Photosynthesis-enhanced trees are just one of the many climate solutions the company is exploring. Living Carbon has also developed a trait that enables trees to accumulate higher levels of metals in their roots, naturally slowing decay to increase the duration of carbon storage, produce more durable wood products, and clean soils made toxic by industrial activity. Leveraging a unique ability to grow on land with high heavy metal concentration, the company is targeting underperforming timberland and abandoned agricultural land and mine land to bring investment to former mining communities and restore land that is too toxic for other plants.

Living Carbon has a multi-year research and development partnership with Oregon State University (OSU) to plant photosynthesis-enhanced trees and provide ongoing molecular and physiological analysis. 

“It's exciting to work closely with Living Carbon to field-test this new approach to improving the efficiency of photosynthesis.  If successful in the field, it would be feasible to also increase the potential for carbon uptake and storage in planted trees. Living Carbon has an excellent group of scientists who are working closely with our own faculty and students to bring the best ideas and technology to the work.” Said Steve Strauss, Distinguished Professor of Forest Biotechnology in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University.

Although this is a new space, Living Carbon has raised $15 million from investors to create a future in which sequestering carbon makes economic and ecological sense. This ecosystem includes Felicis Ventures, Lowercarbon Capital, Goat Capital, Prelude Ventures, Floodgate, MCJ Collective, Homebrew Ventures, and EQT Foundation as well as many prominent angel investors including Kimball & Christiana Musk, Scott Belsky, Albert Wenger & Susan Danziger, and Matt Brezina. 

"Living Carbon is a special company because it has figured out how to use advanced biotechnology and innovation in plant biology to make trees capture more carbon while growing faster and be much more resilient to decay. This innovative approach can completely shift the balance in our quest for a much greener and carbon-free world.” Said Aydin Senkut, Founder and Managing Partner of Felicis Ventures  

To access the full whitepaper, see the link in the abstract. To read a shortened version click here and to receive future updates on Living Carbon, including when its photosynthesis enhanced trees will be available for purchase, sign up here.


About Living Carbon: 

Living Carbon is a public benefit company with a mission to responsibly balance the planet’s carbon cycle using the inherent power of plants. Starting with photosynthesis-enhanced trees, the company is demonstrating the promise of advanced biotechnology to restore ecosystems, improve biodiversity, and enhance the ability of photosynthetic organisms to draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere. To learn more about Living Carbon’s technology and ongoing projects visit:

Abstract of the Whitepaper: 

Increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the resulting negative impacts on climate change have compelled global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality or negativity. Most such efforts focus on carbon sequestration through chemical or physical approaches. We aim to harness the power of synthetic biology to enhance plants’ natural ability to draw down and sequester carbon, thereby positively affecting climate change. Past decades of scientific progress have shed light on strategies to overcome the intrinsic limitations of carbon drawdown and fixation through photosynthesis, particularly in row crops in hopes of improving agricultural productivity for food security. Incorporating a photorespiration bypass in C3 plants has shown promising results of increased biomass and grain yield. Despite their globally dominant role in atmospheric carbon flux, the drawdown rates of most trees are currently limited by their C3 photosynthetic metabolism, and efforts to improve the photosynthetic capacity of trees, such as by reducing energy loss in photorespiration, are currently lacking. Here, we selected a photorespiration bypass pathway and tested its effectiveness on photosynthetic enhancement in hybrid poplar INRA717-IB4. The design includes a RNAi strategy to reduce the transportation of the photorespiration byproduct, glycolate, out of chloroplast and a shunt pathway to metabolize the retained glycolate back to CO2 for fixation through the Calvin-Benson cycle. Molecular and physiological data collected from two repeated growth experiments indicate that transgenic plants expressing genes in the photorespiration bypass pathway have increased photosynthetic efficiency, leading to faster plant growth and elevated biomass production. One lead transgenic event accumulated 53% more above-ground dry biomass over a five-month growth period in a controlled environment. Pilot projects with photosynthesis-enhanced trees in the field are in progress. Our results provide a proof-of-concept for engineering trees to help combat climate change.  Access the Whitepaper here.


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