Photo credit: The Conversation
Plants in South Africa’s Western Cape area have tremendous variation in their sensitivity to drought. A. Betzelberger
How plants respond to drought provides insights into climate change survival
Globally, droughts have had a negative impact on many plant species. This has led to much higher rates of mortality than usual. Understanding how different species are likely to respond to drought is crucial to accurately predicting the impact of future climate change on plant communities.
It can be extremely challenging to find meaningful ways to describe plants’ many different types of responses to drought, particularly in biodiverse areas. Scientists have been working to develop a new systemin which plant functional traits can be used to assess the range of drought tolerance in diverse plant communities.
Why some plants shrivel and die and others don’t
Although it may be tempting to think that drought is bad for all plant species, there is tremendous variation in their sensitivity to drought.
For several decades, plant scientists have been attempting to figure out what determines this variation. But there are no simple universal measurements of drought tolerance. Instead, scientists usually rely on long-term experimental manipulations.
The difficulty of assessing drought tolerance makes it challenging to work with large numbers of species. It is critically important that we do so, particularly within the world’s biodiversity hotspots – they are incredibly important systems for the planet. They include the tropical rainforests – the lungs of the planet – and many economically significant ecosystems such as South Africa’s fynbos.
Trade-off between water loss and carbon uptake
A recent paper offers a solution to the challenge. It proposes using simple plant characteristics or traits to identify the different strategies that species adopt to cope with drought.
Read the full article: The Conversation