Navigation Links
Flower power makes tropics cooler, wetter
Date:6/16/2010

The world is a cooler, wetter place because of flowering plants, according to new climate simulation results published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The effect is especially pronounced in the Amazon basin, where replacing flowering plants with non-flowering varieties would result in an 80 percent decrease in the area covered by ever-wet rainforest.

The simulations demonstrate the importance of flowering-plant physiology to climate regulation in ever-wet rainforest, regions where the dry season is short or non-existent, and where biodiversity is greatest.

"The vein density of leaves within the flowering plants is much, much higher than all other plants," said the study's lead author, C. Kevin Boyce, Associate Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. "That actually matters physiologically for both taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis and also the loss of water, which is transpiration. The two necessarily go together. You can't take in CO2 without losing water."

This higher vein density in the leaves means that flowering plants are highly efficient at transpiring water from the soil back into the sky, where it can return to Earth as rain.

"That whole recycling process is dependent upon transpiration, and transpiration would have been much, much lower in the absence of flowering plants," Boyce said. "We can know that because no leaves throughout the fossil record approach the vein densities seen in flowering plant leaves."

For most of biological history there were no flowering plantsknown scientifically as angiosperms. They evolved about 120 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, and took another 20 million years to become prevalent. Flowering species were latecomers to the world of vascular plants, a group that includes ferns, club mosses and confers. But angiosperms now enjoy a position of world domination among plants.

"They're basically everywhere and everything, unless you're talking about high altitudes and very high latitudes," Boyce said.

Dinosaurs walked the Earth when flowering plants evolved, and various studies have attempted to link the dinosaurs' extinction or at least their evolutionary paths to flowering plant evolution. "Those efforts are always very fuzzy, and none have gained much traction," Boyce said.

Boyce and Lee are, nevertheless, working toward simulating the climatic impact of flowering plant evolution in the prehistoric world. But simulating the Cretaceous Earth would be a complex undertaking because the planet was warmer, the continents sat in different alignments and carbon- dioxide concentrations were different.

"The world now is really very different from the world 120 million years ago," Boyce said.

Building the Supercomputer Simulation

So as a first step, Boyce and co-author with Jung-Eun Lee, Postdoctoral Scholar in Geophysical Sciences at UChicago, examined the role of flowering plants in the modern world. Lee, an atmospheric scientist, adapted the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate Model for the study.

Driven by more than one million lines of code, the simulations computed air motion over the entire globe at a resolution of 300 square kilometers (approximately 116 square miles). Lee ran the simulations on a supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in Berkeley, Calif.

"The motion of air is dependent on temperature distribution, and the temperature distribution is dependent on how heat is distributed," Lee said. "Evapo-transpiration is very important to solve this equation. That's why we have plants in the model."

The simulations showed the importance of flowering plants to water recycling. Rain falls, plants drink it up and pass most of it out of their leaves and back into the sky.

In the simulations, replacing flowering plants with non-flowering plants in eastern North America reduced rainfall by up to 40 percent. The same replacement in the Amazon basin delayed onset of the monsoon from Oct. 26 to Jan. 10.

"Rainforest deforestation has long been shown to have a somewhat similar effect," Boyce said. Transpiration drops along with loss of rainforest, "and you actually lose rainfall because of it."

Studies in recent decades have suggested a link between the diversity of organisms of all types, flowering plants included, to the abundance or rainfall and the vastness of tropical forests. Flowering plants, it seems, foster and perpetuate their own diversity, and simultaneously bolster the diversity of animals and other plants generally. Indeed, multiple lineages of plants and animals flourished shortly after flowering plants began dominating tropical ecosystems.

The climate-altering physiology of flowering plants might partly explain this phenomenon, Boyce said. "There would have been rainforests before flowering plants existed, but they would have been much smaller," he said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Steve Koppes
s-koppes@uchicago.edu
773-702-8366
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Flower organs cells make random decisions that determine size
2. Different forms of flowers continues to fascinate
3. Longer-lasting flowers: Fresh ideas from ARS researchers
4. Traces of early Native Americans -- in sunflower genes
5. Can the morphology of fossil leaves tell us how early flowering plants grew?
6. DNA sequencing unlocks relationships among flowering plants
7. Flower power can still calm the masses
8. Tobacco plant thwarts caterpillar onslaught by opening flowers in the morning
9. Changing flowering times protect tobacco plants against insect herbivory
10. Michigan State University study sheds light on microscopic flower petal ridges
11. How did flowering plants evolve to dominate Earth?
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Flower power makes tropics cooler, wetter
(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016  The American College of Medical ... Show Executive Magazine as one of the fastest-growing trade ... 25-27 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas ... highest percentage of growth in each of the following categories: ... companies and number of attendees. The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting ...
(Date:6/21/2016)... 21, 2016 NuData Security announced today that ... of principal product architect and that Jon ... customer development. Both will report directly to ... moves reflect NuData,s strategic growth in its product ... customer demand and customer focus values. ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... York , June 15, 2016 ... new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by Application ... Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, the  ... 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated to ... USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  Increasing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- A person commits a crime, and the detective uses ... criminal down. An outbreak of foodborne illness makes ... uses DNA evidence to track down the bacteria that caused ... not. The FDA has increasingly used a complex, cutting-edge technology ... Put as simply as possible, whole genome sequencing is a ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SAN FRANCISCO , June 23, 2016   ... it has secured $1 million in debt financing from ... to ramp up automation and to advance its drug ... for its new facility. "SVB has been ... goes beyond the services a traditional bank would provide," ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... offering new biological discoveries to the medical community, has ... and co-founder Matthew Nunez . "We ... provide us with the capital we need to meet ... funding will essentially provide us the runway to complete ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Velocity Products, a division of Morris Group, ... exclusively for Okuma CNC machining centers at The International Manufacturing Technology Show, IMTS, ... companies with expertise in toolholding, cutting tools, machining dynamics and distribution, Velocity SMART ...
Breaking Biology Technology: