Navigation Links
Why do autumn leaves bother to turn red?
Date:10/25/2007

Boulder, CO, USA - Soils may dictate the array of fall colors as much as the trees rooted in them, according to a forest survey out of North Carolina.

By taking careful stock and laboratory analyses of the autumn foliage of sweetgum and red maple trees along transects from floodplains to ridge-tops in a nature preserve in Charlotte, N.C., former University of North Carolina at Charlotte graduate student Emily M. Habinck found that in places where the soil was relatively low in nitrogen and other essential elements, trees produced more red pigments known as anthocyanins.

Habinck's discovery supports a 2003 hypothesis put forward to explain why trees bother to make red pigments, by plant physiologist William Hoch of Montana State University, Bozeman. Hoch found that if he genetically blocked anthocyanin production in red-leafed plants, their leaves were unusually vulnerable to fall sunlight, and so sent less nutrients to the plant roots for winter storage.

For trees living in nutrient-poor soils, then, it makes sense to produce more anthocyanins, which protect the leaves longer, so as much nutrient as possible can be recovered from leaves before winter sets in. It is, after all, the process of recovering of nutrients from leaves which turns leaves from green to yellow, orange and sometimes anthocyanin-red.

The trees Habinck studied appear to be acting in accordance with Hoch's hypothesis. "It makes sense that anthocyanin production would have a function, because it requires energy expenditure," said Habinck. Put in economic terms, anthocyanins are an investment made by stressed trees in situations where they stand to gain from the extra recovery of nutrients from leaves. It's not about the showy color, but about survival.

"The rainbow of color we see in the fall is not just for our personal human enjoyment -- rather, it is the trees going on about their lives and trying to survive," said Habinck's advisor, Martha C. Eppes, a soil scientist and assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Eppes will present the research at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Monday, 29 October, in Denver, CO.

The reason the soil-leaf color connection wasn't made long ago is partly because Hoch's hypothesis was needed to put it into perspective. It also might be that many plant researchers were missing the forest for the trees.

"I think that most of the work has been done by biologists looking at production of anthocyanins in trees themselves," said Eppes. They hadn't stepped back and looked at patterns of tree color.

Eppes wants to follow up Habinck's study with a wider analysis of satellite data showing tree color which can be compared to geological maps of the types of soils over large portions of land.


'/>"/>

Contact: Ann Cairns
acairns@geosociety.org
303-357-1056
Geological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Protein behind autumn color splendor identified
2. In SAD patients, autumn antidepressants can prevent winter depression
3. Depression model leaves mice with molecular scar
4. Researchers discover way to transport environmental arsenic to plant leaves in new clean-up strategy
5. Researchers offer clues to how leaves patterns are formed
6. Ghost protein leaves fresh tracks in the cell
7. Einsteins tea leaves inspire new blood separation technique
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/2/2016)... June 2, 2016   The Weather Company , an ... Ads, an industry-first capability in which consumers will be able ... to ask questions via voice or text and receive relevant ... Marketers have long sought an advertising solution ... can be personal, relevant and valuable; and can scale across ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... , May 20, 2016  VoiceIt is ... partnership with VoicePass. By working together, ... experience.  Because VoiceIt and VoicePass take slightly different ... engines increases both security and usability. ... excitement about this new partnership. "This ...
(Date:5/3/2016)...  Neurotechnology, a provider of high-precision biometric identification ... Identification System (ABIS) , a complete system for ... can process multiple complex biometric transactions with high ... face or iris biometrics. It leverages the core ... MegaMatcher Accelerator , which have been used in ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... Md. , June 23, 2016 A person ... from the crime scene to track the criminal down. ... the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA ... sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June, 23, 2016  The Biodesign Challenge ... envision new ways to harness living systems and biotechnology, ... Art (MoMA) in New York City ... 130 participating students, showcased projects at MoMA,s Celeste Bartos ... Paola Antonelli , MoMA,s senior curator of architecture and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... , ... In a new case report published today in STEM CELLS Translational ... lymphedema after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an injection of stem cells ... this debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. , Lymphedema refers to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... NEW YORK , June 23, 2016 ... the trading session at 4,833.32, down 0.22%; the Dow Jones ... the S&P 500 closed at 2,085.45, down 0.17%. Stock-Callers.com has ... INFI ), Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NKTR ... BIND Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: BIND ). Learn more ...
Breaking Biology Technology: