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Brown biologist solves mystery of tropical grasses' origin
Date:2/8/2010

cted to greater fluctuations in precipitation, sunlight, temperature and other environmental stresses, spurring the photosynthetic innovation.

What that all means for the future of C4 grasses and climate change is an open question. While the grasses would presumably benefit from projections of lower mean rainfall in some areas of the tropics, they may be less competitive with rising levels of atmospheric CO2. Also, the effects of changes in land through deforestation and other practices would need to be considered, Edwards said.

In a related finding, the scientists attempt to explain the dominance of a lineage of C3 grasses, called Pooideae, in northern, cold areas of the globe, such as the Mongolian steppes. "The global latitudinal gradients of C3 and C4 always has been explained by the physiological advantages that C4 grasses have under high temperatures," Edwards explained. "No one has considered that the evolution of cold tolerance might have been equally important in setting up that latitudinal gradient. Climatically speaking, the cool-climate Pooideae are really the grasses that are doing something very different."

"It highlights the apparently important role that cold tolerance has played for the evolution of non-C4 grasses and especially the group Pooideae, which includes rye, barley, and wheat and many of the other grasses in the temperate and boreal habitats," Smith said.


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Contact: Richard Lewis
Richard_Lewis@Brown.edu
401-863-3766
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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