Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Tropical Plants Handle Warming

According to an article in dailyindia.com,
Tropical plants may become more adaptable due to changing rainfall patterns as a result of global warming, according to a new study by a University of Florida scientist.

The researchers found that plants in Hawaii had the ability to acclimate to big changes in rainfall in at least one important respect - how they derived nutrients. The plants largely relied on one form of the vital nutrient nitrogen in moist areas. But in the still wetter terrain that characterizes some rainforests, they switched to another form of nitrogen that becomes more available in those conditions.Scientists said the findings presented a notable exception to the commonly held idea that tropical plants are highly specialized in their own little environmental niches and thus very sensitive to disturbances of those niches."These plants should be able to do OK in terms of their nitrogen nutrition, even with the climate changing. But of course, we only studied one group of organisms and one mechanism in this study and plants depend on many different mechanisms to coexist, some of which may also change with changing rainfall," said Ted Schuur, UF assistant professor of ecology and one of four authors of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).According to the researchers, the plants' ability to acclimatise themselves to changing climate is good as climate change is expected to radically alter rainfall patterns in the tropics. But there are drawbacks as well. Unrelated changes that accompany a warming climate could still affect plant distribution and growth, such as those that hold sway over pollinators, insect predators or invasive plants.
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