Miniscule plants growing on desert soils can help drylands retain water and reduce erosion, researchers have found. A global meta-analysis led by UNSW scientists shows tiny organisms that cover desert soils—so-called biocrusts—are critically important for supporting the world’s shrinking water supplies.
Microplastics, tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters in length, can now be found throughout the ocean and other aquatic ecosystems, and even in our seafood and salt. As microplastics have become ubiquitous, scientists have become concerned about their transfer from the environment to the food chain and their potential impact on human health.
Alpine regions on the Tibetan Plateau are sensitive to climate change, however, little is known about their long-term hydroclimate variability due to short instrumental records. A research team established a 537-year standard shrub-ring chronology by cross-dating living and dead Wilson juniper shrubs sampled nearby the Nam Co Lake, on the south-central Tibetan Plateau.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases, and is thus by many observers considered as a climate villain. This conclusion, however, is based on a paradigm that can be questioned according to a new article.
To make climate scenarios work for decision-makers, an international team of researchers developed a comprehensive interactive online platform. It is the first of its kind to provide the tools to use those scenarios – from climate impacts to mitigation and energy options – to a broader public beyond science. The scenarios help policy makers and businesses, finance actors and civil society alike to assess the threat of global warming and ways to limit it.
A webtool giving an overview of climate change in Europe and predicting subsequent developments was created as a joint collaboration between French, Spanish, German and Estonian researchers.
The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.
Drifting algae in the Austral Ocean can bring invasive species to the Antarctic coasts, according to a new study. The report describes the first scientific evidence of a potentially invasive and colonial species –the marine bryozoan Membranipora membranacea- which reaches the Antarctic latitude islands in macroalgae that drift in the marine environment.
In the face of rapid climate change, it is important that plants can adapt quickly to new conditions to ensure their survival. Using field experiments and plant genome studies, an international research team has pinpointed areas of the genome that are affected during local adaptation to contrasting climates. This new insight into local adaptation represents an important first step towards future development of crops that are resilient to climate change.
It is an open question how we can ensure that our crop plants remain productive in a changing climate. Plants are confronted with similar climate adaptation challenges when colonising new regions, as climate conditions can change quickly across latitudes and landscapes. Despite the relevance of the question, there is very limited basic scientific insight into how plants tackle this challenge and adapt to local climate conditions. Researchers from Denmark, Japan, Austria and Germany have now published the results of their research on this very subject.
The researchers studied the plant Lotus japonicus, which – with relatively limited genomic changes – has been able to adapt to diverse Japanese climates ranging from subtropical to temperate. Using a combination of field experiments and genome sequencing, the researchers were able to infer the colonisation history of L. japonicus in Japan and identify areas in the genome where plant populations adapted to warm and cold climates, respectively, showed extreme genetic differentiation. At the same time, they showed that some of these genomic regions were strongly associated with plant winter survival and flowering.
This is the first time researchers have identified specific genomic regions that have changed in response to natural selection to allow the plant species to adapt to new climatic conditions.
Professor Mikkel Heide Schierup states: “One of the great questions of evolutionary biology is how natural selection can lead to genetic adaptation to new environments, and here we directly observed an example of this in Lotus japonicus.”
And Associate Professor Stig Uggerhøj Andersen adds: “Yes, and it is fascinating that we have identified specific traits, including winter survival, that have been under selection during plant local adaptation to contrasting climates. At the same time, we observed extreme genetic signatures of selection in specific genomic regions. This link between selection signatures and specific traits is critical for understanding the process of local adaptation.”
“The rapid adaptation of L. japonicus to widely different climates indicates that genetic variation underlying the adaptations was already present before plant colonisation. This is promising for other plant species on a planet with rapid climate change, since it will allow more rapid adaptation,” adds Professor Schierup.
“In this case, the different climates have resulted in distinct plant populations adapted to their own local environments. These populations appear to be preserved because certain genotypes are an advantage in warm climates, but a disadvantage in cold climates and vice versa,” concludes Dr. Andersen.
Read the paper: Nature Communications
Article source: Aarhus University
Author: LISBETH HEILESEN
Image credit: Niels Sandal, Aarhus University
Plant life is expanding in the area around Mount Everest, and across the Himalayan region, new research shows. Scientists used satellite data to measure the extent of subnival vegetation – plants growing between the treeline and snowline – in this vast area.