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A study proposes a new universal rule to explain the equilibrium of plant populations
Date:9/18/2007

ve permitted the first ever quantification of the cell death of phytoplankton.

The authors show that the same basic rules govern the longevity and birth rates of plants, such that the brief life span of the microscopic phytoplankton cells is offset by the vertiginous birth rates of populations, while centennial tree populations register no more than sporadic births.

Their findings provide the key to a universal regulation of the life span of photosynthetic organisms with reference to plant size and the temperatures they grow at, and suggest that the mortality rates of phototrophs evolve to match population growth rates. A further conclusion is that plant mortality is of necessity highly temperature-sensitive, such that climate change will tend to accelerate the phototroph death rates which are an essential part of the food chain. As stated, the authors estimate that plant mortality could increase by 40% in the event of an up to 4C increase in land temperatures (the rate foreseen for the 21st century by most climate change prediction models).

The balance between longevity and birth rates in photosynthetic organisms is what keeps their populations stable. In the event of a serious mismatch between plant mortality and birth rates, these populations would either be driven to extinction (if death rates far exceeded births) or would outgrow available resources of light, water and food with the same inevitable result (in the case of births far exceeding deaths).


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Contact: Javier Fernndez
comunicacion@fbbva.es
Fundaci n BBVA
Source:Eurekalert

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