Login

GPC Members Login
If you have any problems or have forgotten your login please contact [email protected]


Early bloomers: Statistical tool reveals climate change impacts on plants

Early flowering, early fruiting: Anecdotal evidence of climate change is popping up as quickly as spring crocuses, but is it coincidence or confirmation that plants’ timing is shifting in response to warming temperatures?

Scientists have had few tools to piece together disparate, anecdotal data into a collective, bigger picture. Now, however, McGill University biologist Jonathan Davies and colleagues have produced a statistical estimator that extracts meaningful measures of phenological change – that is, the time a plant first leafs-out, flowers or sets fruit – from data collected by current and ancestral citizen scientists (Henry David Thoreau among the latter cohort), and along a continuous record from herbaria collections stretching more than two centuries into the past. Their findings appear in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“Plant phenology provides a powerful symbol of how climate change is impacting our environment, and these changes can be observed both in nature and in the crops we plant and grow to feed ourselves,” Davies says. “Because we have short memories, it is difficult, however, to determine whether the changes we observe today are unusual or if they simply represent natural variation from year to year.”

Using new statistical techniques, the researchers show how it is possible to estimate, from dried plants housed in herbaria, when a flower first bloomed. “Plants in herbaria number in the millions, but they are often hidden from view,” Davies says. “Our work shows how these dusty specimens can provide new insights into how human activities have altered today’s climate, by contrasting the time a flower bloomed in the past to observation in the present day.”

Utah State University scientist Will Pearse, lead author of the paper, says that “using this estimator, we can place modern observations within the context of a vast wealth of historical data.” Pearse, a former postdoctoral fellow at McGill, says the new technique also unleashes the power and emphasizes the value of citizen science.

Read the paper: A statistical estimator for determining the limits of contemporary and historic phenology.

Article source: McGill University.

News

Plant mothers 'talk' to their embryos via the hormone auxin

While pregnancy in humans and seed development in plants look very different, parallels exist -- not least that the embryo develops in close connection with the mother. In animals, a whole network of signals from the mother is known to influence embryo development. In plants, it has been clear for a while that maternal signals regulate embryo development. However, the signal itself was unknown -- until now. Plant scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC) and the University of Freiburg have now found that a plant hormone, called auxin, from the mother is one of the signals that pattern the plant embryo. Their study is published in Nature Plants.


Archaeologists discover bread that predates agriculture by 4,000 years

At an archaeological site in northeastern Jordan, researchers have discovered the charred remains of a flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers 14,400 years ago. It is the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, predating the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. The findings suggest that bread production based on wild cereals may have encouraged hunter-gatherers to cultivate cereals, and thus contributed to the agricultural revolution in the Neolithic period.


Climate change-induced march of treelines halted by unsuitable soils

New research from the University of Guelph is dispelling a commonly held assumption about climate change and its impact on forests in Canada and abroad.