#ClimateChange Effects on Rocky Mountain Plant Driven by Sex — Public News Service

MOUNTAIN CLIMBER  Male valerian plants like this one have moved up in elevation in response to hotter, drier climate conditions. As a result, male-female plant ratios have changed since the late 1970s, researchers have found. This plant is growing in the research team’s highest study site, at 3,790 meters. Via Science News.
MOUNTAIN CLIMBER Male valerian plants like this one have moved up in elevation in response to hotter, drier climate conditions. As a result, male-female plant ratios have changed since the late 1970s, researchers have found. This plant is growing in the research team’s highest study site, at 3,790 meters. Via Science News.

From the Public News Service:

Scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory near Crested Butte have documented sex-specific responses to climate change for the first time. The study, published in the journal Science, shows changes in the valerian plant’s growth patterns over 40 years of research.

Kailen Mooney, the report’s co-author and a professor at the University of California Irvine, said a warming planet has already affected where the plant grows at different elevations.

“Just like in humans, where where males and females are different, in plants, males and females are different and they have responded to climate change differently,” he said. “Specifically, what we found is that over the last 40 years, males have been increasing in abundance.”

He explained male plants have traditionally grown at lower elevations, where it’s hot and dry, and females grow higher up, in cooler, wetter areas. Mooney said warmer conditions have allowed more males to settle into female territory. Unlike most flowering plants, valerian, like asparagus, papaya, spinach, and aspen, can’t self-fertilize.

Mooney noted that the report is the first of its kind to show how male and female plants respond differently to climate change. He said the research could help scientists get a better understanding of how humans and other animals might adapt to changing conditions.

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