Aug 28, 2020 07:00 AM EDT
The evolution of several plant species can occur rapidly in response to droughts and climate change. Modified traits of these plants are fixed genetically to pass on these traits to the next generation. Human-induced climate change is rapidly progressing, which causes hotter temperatures and variations in the cycles and patterns of climatic events, including precipitation.
According to climate scenarios and prediction models, many dry regions like deserts and semi-deserts will get even less rainfall due to climate change.
For plants and other organisms to survive in these new environmental conditions, they must be capable of adapting equally rapidly.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Biscutella didyma in Mount Juktas, Crete, Greece. It is a plant that is found both in extreme desert environments as well as wet regions of the Mediterranean. The evolution of a number of plant species can occur rapidly in response to droughts and climate change. Modified traits of these plants are fixed genetically so that they can pass on these traits to the next generation
University of Tübingen Institute of Evolution and Ecology professor Katja Tielbörger led colleagues from the University of Tübingen, the University of Münster, the University of Cologne, and the University of Hildesheim in a new study which showed the capacity of plants to evolve adaptations in response to climate change. Their findings have been published in the journal Ecology Letters.
The research team began to conduct a uniquely long experiment to see how and if plants can rapidly detect and adapt to climatic changes.
The study was conducted in Israel for 12 years. In the experiment, rainfall was manipulated and controlled in a field containing whole plant communities. The precipitation levels were directed by either giving more irrigation or preventing rain on the plants.
According to Tielbörger, hardly any experiments looking into plant evolution in a near-natural environment are done. Tielbörger conducted a previous study which found that predominantly annual plant communities had extreme resilience and resistance to drought conditions.
READ: Coffee, Cake, and Free Bus Tickets: Finnish Town Rewards Residents If They Reduce Their Carbon Emissions
For the new study, the research team selected the small annual species of crucifer Biscutella didyma. It is a plant found both in extreme desert environments and wet regions of the Mediterranean. The team considered many genetically well-researched traits, which hugely influenced the plant’s capacity to resist drought.
The experiment used four locations with a naturally very steep gradient of rainfall. The plant’s traits that varied along this gradient were investigated, compared with their response to different experimental conditions.
READ ALSO: Australia Proposes 30-Year Plan to Protect Great Barrier Reef, Allocates $2 Billion for Phase 1
Findings of the Study
The plants in the experiment were unable to quickly acquire all the essential traits needed to adapt to water scarcity. Its capability to adapt promptly was varied between the different characteristics studied.
Within just a decade, the team found that the plants that were naturally well suited in a humid environment flowered earlier and channeled additional resources to producing seeds when exposed to experimental drought. Tielbörger says that these reactions are classic strategies in adapting to arid conditions, as seen in desert flora.
Thus, this study showed that such measures might indeed be a plant adaptation to climate change. Conversely, several vital traits did not show any evolutionary transitions, including efficient use of water or dormancy of seeds.
Tielbörger concludes that the study is partly optimistic because even if it showed how rapid evolution could occur in certain important traits, other traits might be too slow for keeping up with rapid climate change.
READ NEXT: Berkeley Says California Temperatures Ideal for Some Crops but Too Warm for Others
Check out more news and information on Climate Change on Nature World News.
© 2018 NatureWorldNews.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.