Arxiu d'etiquetes: botany

18 essential mobile applications for field trips

Gone are the days when we had to carry guides and guides to enjoy identification of species in the sea or field. Despite the nostalgia of those printed guides, today, thanks to mobile applications, any nature lover can carry in a pocket all kind of information.

As a lover of nature or biology, do not miss these 18 applications to identify and learn from everything around you. Do you need more than 18? Don’t miss part two.

BIODIVERSITY AND MAPPING

MAP OF LIFE

We start with a highlight: this wonderful application lets you know what wildlife is around you anywhere in the world. Setting on a map our location, the app will indicate us  which species can be found in the area where we are classified by groups (birds, amphibians, insects, trees, plants, fish…) in a database of more than 900,000 species.

In addition to the description, pictures, etc, of the species, we can mark if we have done any sightings, helping to provide data on the frequency of appearance of the species and having a record of our  own observations.

We can also find species directly from the browser or search field.

Available in google play market Available an APP store

BIOGUIDE – FIELD GUIDE WORLD

Bioguide allows us to have in our Android mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, moths, plants and mushrooms. When you open the app, it gives you the chance to choose which data download from a total of 100,000 photos and 1,000 sounds. This allows you to use them later offline in nature.

You can search by color, region, name, diet, type of flowering … Within the tab of each species, we will find all kinds of features such as habitat, conservation status, diet, locomotion, systematics, morphology and physiology, trails, similar species… a complete app to keep in mind.


BV MOBILE

This application allows us to upload photos of our observations (animals, plants, lichens or rocks) to a database of georeferenced photographs. The species will be identified and you’ll be able to save your picture with the correct name. We will also contribute to help in the understanding of biodiversity and conservation of the environment.

Available in google play market  Available an APP store

iNATURALIST

iNaturalist is another application that will allow us to raise our observations to the database Global Biodiversity Information Facility, to contribute to a better understanding of biodiversity providing data to scientists.

It is a citizen science project where you can start your own project or join one that has already started, contact the experts who identify the species you see and expand your knowledge exchanging experiences with other naturalists.

Available in google play market  Available an APP store

PEAKFINDER EARTH

How it is called the mountain in front of you? Just point your mobile towards it and you’ll know the name of the peak anywhere in the world, since its database has 250,000 references. The application has a cost of 3.39 € and works offline.

 peakfinderearth

 Available in google play market

GEODETIC POINTS

If you are looking for a free alternative,  Geodetic Points will inform you about the name, altitude and how far it is the peak are you looking at . It must be installed with the augmented reality app Layar and only reports on Spanish peaks.

Source

Available in google play market

BOTANY AND MICOLOGY

ARBOLAPP

This is a guide to wild trees of the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands.

arbol capture app

In the guided search, you can describe as in a dichotomous key how the tree is until you reach its species. Then you’ll get a description of it, photographs and distribution. There is also the open search, where from the location, leaves, fruits, flowers and other features the app will guide you to the desired tree. It also has a glossary with more than 80 words and does not require internet connection to use it.

Disponible en google play market

Disponible an APP store

If you need a field guide to trees in Europe and North America, you can try iKnow Trees 2 LITE, with a database of more than 200 species (Android only).

Pl@ntNet

The “Shazam” of plants. Upload up to 4 photos of the plant you want to identify, indicate whether if it is a flower, fruit, stem… and the application will search among more than 4,000 species registered and show you what plant it is. If it is not in the database, you can register it for the rest of the community to identify it.

 Plantnet

 Available in google play market

 Available an APP store

FUNGIPEDIA

Application for identifying mushrooms with 250 species in its free version. In addition to information on the mushroom and possible toxicity of the species, in the thescription we will find the most common mistakes included, to avoid unnecessary collection of species allowing them to continue fulfilling their role in nature. The application allows working offline if you have previously downloaded the libraries with the data.

Source

In the Pro version (6.99 €), we can save the GPS location of the mushrooms that we have found. If a species is not referenced, we can add it to the database.
Available in google play market

ZOOLOGY

BIRDS OF SPAIN

If you love ornithology dot not miss this app developed by SEO Birdlife. It is divided into two sections:

  • The bird guide itself , with sheets of the 563 species of birds which are present or have been cited in Spain. In each sheet you will find the layout, drawings, photos, videos, songs and a brief description as well as the months of sighting.

  • Ornithological Itineraries: informs us of the areas of Spain where we can make our observations, with information about the ecological importance of the area and which birds can we find. Spain2 birds

    Available in google play market

    WATER BIRDS

    SEO Birdlife also has specific app Water birds to computerize census, identify wetlands closest to our location and view photos and current census of each wetland.

    Available in google play market Available an APP store

     WARBLTWIGLE AND MERLIN BIRD ID

    These three apps offer similar functions. We can consider Warbl the “Shazam” of birds. With just recording the song of a bird, the app will recognize it and it will give us information on the bird species without being connected to the network. Warbl can identify 220 UK birds. It has a cost of 5.29 €.

     warblr

    Available in google play market

    Disponible an APP store

    Field Guide birds Twigle (for iPhone) is another app that not only allows us to identify birds by their song, as Warbl, but allows  us to upload photos of any bird that we sighted and it will recognize the species from our image. It identifies species in North America, Ireland, UK and South Africa.

    Available an APP store

    If you do not have iPhone, Merlin Bird Id in its web version also allows you to recognize a photo from hundreds of species of birds in North America. It also has an application in Android and iOS for identifying birds from a few simple questions.

    INSECT ORDERS

    If you’re a fan of insects, with this application you can identify insect orders from Australia. If you do not live in Astralia, still it is a good way to learn to distinguish the characteristics that define each order, also present in your country.

     Available google play market  Available an APP store

    iFelix – WOLF

    The field notebooks by emblematic Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente revisited. If you’re a fan of wolves, with this app (€ 2.20) you will have illustrations, 3D animations, photographs, dynamic maps, sounds, utilities (camera geolocation sightings and others) and an area to practice field drawings . Ifelix wolf

    For the moment it is only available the notebook of the wolf, but they are preparing the notebooks of the imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx .

     Available in google play market Disponible an APP store

    ANIMALS TIME: ENCYCLOPEDIA

    Although the description of this application (available only in Android) indicates that it is aimed at children, the truth is that we will find a lot of information about hundreds of animal species. Curiosities, distribution, habitat, behavior, food …

    It also has specific sections for endangered and even extinct species.

     Available in google play market Available an APP store
    This is the selection of All You Need is  Biology of mobile apps touse in the field. In future articles we will complete the list with more applications like maps, compasses and other essential utilities for any naturalist. We eill also discover other applications related to biology.

    Do you know other applications to complete this list? Add it in the comments below!

    MIREIA QUEROL ALL YOU NEED IS BIOLOGY

    REFERENCES

    • Cover photo
    • All other photographs, unless otherwise indicated, obtained from the corresponding stores .

Photosynthesis and vegetal life

In this article we will talk about photosynthesis and about the first kinds of vegetal life. In the current systematic, the term plant fits primarily to terrestrial plants, while the term vegetal is an old term of Aristotelian connotation that refers to organisms with photosynthetic functions. But, as with everything, there are exceptions.

The term plant has existed for many years. But, previously, Aristotle was who classified the living organisms into three mainly groups:

  • Vegetals (vegetative soul): can perform nutrition and reproduction.
  • Animals (sensitive soul): nutrition, reproduction, perception, movement and desire.
  • Humans: can do all these things and also have the ability to reason.

Aristotle_Dominiopublico
Aristotle (Public domain)

This simplistic way of perceiving the living world has lasted for a long time, but has varied due to different studies by several authors like Linnaeus or Whittaker, among others.

A very current classification was proposed in 2012, The Revised Classification of Eukaryotes. J. Eukariot. Microbiol. 59 (5): 429-493; this one reveals a true tree of life.

image description
Sina ;. Adl, et al. (2012) The revised classification of Eukaryotes.  J Eukaryot Microbiol.; 59 (5): 429-493

WHAT IS PHOTOSYNTHESIS? IS IT A UNIQUE PROCESS?

Photosynthesis is a metabolic process that allows to use light energy to transform simple inorganic compounds into organic complexes. To do this, they need a number of photosynthetic pigments that capture these light rays and that through a series of chemical reactions allow to perform internal processes that give rise to organic compounds.

This nutritious option has been developed by many organisms in multiple groups and branches of the tree of life of eukaryotes. And among them appears  the Archaeplastida, the lineage of organisms that has led to land plants.

Terrestrial plants (Embryophyta) are easily definable, but what about the algae? Usually, they are defined as eukaryotic organisms living primarily in the aquatic environment and with a relatively simple organization, but this is not always true. For this reason, all Archaeplastida groups falling outside the concept of land plants (a small group within Archaeplastida) are called “algae“.

There are also photosynthetic prokaryotes into Eubacteria domain, and it is in these where photosynthesis is highly variable. While in eukaryotes is unique, oxygenic photosynthesis.

The Eubacteria domain is very broad, and among its branches there are up to 5 large groups of photosynthetic organisms: Chloroflexi, Firmicutes, Chlorobi, Proteobacteria and Cyanobacteria. The latter are the only eubacterial performing an oxygenic photosynthesis; with release of oxygen from water molecules and using hydrogen from water as electron donor. The rest performs an anoxygenic photosynthesis: the electron donor is sulfur or hydrogen sulfide and, during this process, oxigen is never released, since water rarely intervenes; which is why they are known as purple sulfur bacteria.

Photosynthesis is probably older than life itself. Oxygenic photosynthesis, which is tightly related to this group of bacteria, the cyanobacteria, probably occurs later. But it was crucial for the development of life on our planet, since transformed the atmosphere in a more oxygenated one and, due to this, life on Earth had become more diverse and has evolved.

SONY DSC
Amazon, the lungs of the Earh (Author: Christian Cruzado; Flickr)

WHAT PIGMENTS ARE USED?

Cyanobacteria share pigments with terrestrial plants and other photosynthetic eukaryotes. These pigments are primarily chlorophylls a and b (the universal ones); c and d are only present in some groups. There are two more pigments that are univeral: carotenes, these ones act as antennas that transfer the captured energy to chlorophylls and also protect the reaction center against autoxidation, and phycobiliproteins (phycocyanin, phycoerythrin, etc.), which appear in both cyanobacteria and other eukaryotic groups photosynthetic and are responsible for capturing light energy.

But, why exist this variability of accessory pigments? because each pigment have a different absorption spectrum, and the fact to present different molecules allows to collect much better the wavelenght of sunlight; i.e., energy capture is much more efficient.

On the other hand, the anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria don’t present chlorophylls and, instead, have specific molecules of the prokaryotes, the bacteriochlorophylls.

Pigment_spectra.png
Absorption spectrum of different pigments (Reference: York University)

Where are pigments located?

In the organisms with oxygenic photosynthesis, that is, in cyanobacteria and photosynthetic eukaryotes, pigments are located into complex structures. In cyanobacteria, there are various concentric flattened sacs called thylakoids in the peripheral cytoplasm, which are only surrounded by a membrane. And it is in the lumen of the thylakoid where pigments are located. In eukaryotes, however, we found chloroplasts, which are intracellular organelles full of thylakoids with at least two membranes and they are particular of photosynthetic eukaryotes. In these chloroplasts is where photosynthesis takes place. Both groups, therefore, perform oxygenic photosynthesis within the thylakoids; the difference is that in eukaryotes, the thylakoids are located into the chloroplasts.

Plagiomnium_affine_laminazellen
Plant cells where we can see chloroplasts (Author: Kristian Peters – Fabelfroh)

On the other hand, in organisms with anoxygenic photosynthesis there are different options. The purple bacteria contain pigments in chromatophores, a kind of vesicles in the center or periphery of the cell. In contrast, the green bacteria (Chlorobi and Chloroflexi) present several flattened vesicles at the periphery of the cell, on the plasma membrane, where bacteriochlorophyll are located. In Heliobacterium, the pigment is attached to the inner surface of the plasma membrane. They are generally not complex structures, and often this structures have simple membranes.

ORIGIN OF THE PHOTOSYNTHETIC ORGANISMS

The fossil evidence of the earliest photosynthetic organisms are the stromatolites (3.2 Ga ago). They are structures formed by overlapping thin layers of organisms together with their own calcium carbonate deposits. These occurs in shallow waters, in warm and well-lit seas. Although many seem straight columns, deviations are observed because they try to be oriented towards the sunlight to perform photosynthesis. In the past they had a crucial importance in building reefs-like formations and they also participated into the atmospheric composition changes. Currently, there are some which are still alive.

1301321830_947d538a4d_o.jpg
Stromatolites (Author:Alessandro, Flickr)

REFERENCES

  • Notes from the Environmental Biology degree (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and the Master’s degree in Biodiversity (Universitat de Barcelona).
  • Font Quer, P. (1953): Diccionario de Botánica. Editorial Labor, Barcelona.
  • Izco, J., Barreno, E., Brugués, M., Costa, M., Devesa, J. A., Fernández, F., Gallardo, T., Llimona, X., Parada, C., Talavera, S. & Valdés, B. (2004) Botánica 2.ªEdición. McGraw-Hill, pp. 906.
  • Willis, K.J. & McElwain, J.C. (2014) The Evolution of Plants (second edition). Oxford University Press, 424 pp.

Difusió-anglès

Carnivorous plants

The carnivorism is a nutrition style associated to animals, to the world of heterotrophs. But it has been seen that there are plants that are also able to feed on other organisms. They are called carnivorous plants and their strategies to capture dams are very different and curious.

WHAT IS A CARNIVOROUS PLANT?

A carnivorous plants , even being autotroph, get part of their nutritional supplement by feeding on animals, especially insects.

There are three basic requirements that  carnivorous plants must comply:

  • they must be able to attract, capture and kill the preys. To get their attention, they usually show reddish coloration and secrete nectar. Morphological and anatomical adaptations for retaining and killing the preys such as traps are used.
  • Digestion and absorbance of the nutrients releasedby the damn .
  • And finally, it has to draw significant benefit from the process.

Dionaea muscipula
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) (Author: Jason).

WHERE DO THEY LIVE?

Carnivorous plants are  not competitive in normal environments and tend to have a small root system, they need this specialization to allow them to grow faster. They are usually found in low mineralization soils, but with a high concentration of organic matter, sunny areas (as they still perform photosynthesis) and with  a high humidity.

Normally they are also calcifuges, i.e., they are not well adapted to alkaline soils and prefer acidic environments, where the source of calcium comes from the prey. They tend to inhabit soils with low oxygen and  saturated in water in a reducing environment. Some are aquatic and live either floating or submerged, but always near the surface.

TRAPS AND EXAMPLES

The capture system is quite diverse, but can be classified according to whether there is movement or not. We consider active strategies for those plants having mechanical or suction movements. Semi-active strategies which present mucilaginous glands and have movement and finally, passive ones, with no motion for prey capture. They can present mucilaginous glands or pitfall traps. Somes amples are given below.

ACTIVE TRAPS

Venus flytrap

In the case of this plant, the traps are mechanical and they are formed by two valves joined by a central axis. These valves are the result of non photosynthetic leave transformations. The stem acts as a petiole and performs photosynthesis, for this reason, it is thickened, increasing its surface and facilitating the process. Furthermore, the valves have nectar glands to attract preys and its perimeter is surrounded by teeth which help the capture, as when the trap is closed, the teeth overlay perfectly avoiding the animal’s escape..

But, what mechanism drives the closing? There’s a gigh number of triggers hairs inside the valves. When the dam is located on the trap and makes the trigger hairs move twice or more in less than 20 seconds, the valves close immediately.

In this vídeos From the BBC one (Youtube Channel: BBC) we can observe the whole process.

Utricularia, the bladderwort

This plant lives submerged near the surface and is known as the bladderwort, because it has bladder-like traps. The bladders are characterized for having sensitive hairs that activate the suction mechanism of the dam. Then, the bladder generates a very strong internal pressure that sucks water in, dragging the animal to the trap. It’s volume can increase up to 40% when water enters.

In the following video we can see the bladderwort trapping a tadpole of cane toad (Youtube Channel: Philip Stoddard):

SEMIACTIVE TRAPS

When I caught you, you won’t be able to escape

The presence of stalked mucilaginous glands is not unique in the carnivorous plant world, many plants use them as a defence or to prevent water loss. But, some carnivorous plants they are used to capture animals, as the sundews (Drosera) does.

The glands presents on the leaves of the sundews are formed by a stalk and an apical cell that releases mucilage. This substance attracts preys by its smell and taste. When the dam is located on the leaves, some drops of mucilage join each other to form a viscous mass that will cover all the prey, preventing its escape. We note that the glands have some mobility and move themselves to get in contact with the prey. Also, as a result, the leaf wrappes, facilitating the subsequent digestion.

The following video shows the operation of this mechanism (Youtube Channel: TheShopofHorrors):

PASSIVE TRAPS

Don’t get to sticky! 

The Drosophyllum‘s case is very similar to the previous one, but this time the stalked mucilaginous glands don’t have mobility and, therefore, the leaf doesn’t have either. The insect gets caught just because it is hooked on it’s sticky trap and cannot escape.

Drosophyllum
Insects trapped by Drosophyllum‘s stalked mucilaginous glands  (Author: incidencematrix).

Carefull not to fall!

Finally, we see the passive pitfall traps. They sometimes have a lid that protects them from an excess wàter getting in, even though it isn’t a part of the trap mechanism. The pitfall traps can be formed by the leaf itself or by an additional structure that is originated from an extension of the midrib (the tendril). The tendril lowers to ground level and then forms the trap.

Nepenthes
Nepenthes (Author: Nico Nelson).

Dams are attracted to these traps due to nectar glands located inside. Once inside, going out is very complicated!  Walls may be viscous,  have downwardly inclined hairs that hinder to escape or present translucent spots that suggest the prey that there’s an exit, acting like windows , confusing and exhausting the prey, making it fall to the bottom, where it will drown. Other species also release substances that stun the preys, preventing them from running away.

Heliamphora
Heliamphora (Author: Brian Gratwicke).

In some cases, large animals have fallen into these traps, though it is considered more as an effect of “bad-luck” than the plants supposed diet, though some traps measure up to 20cm long.

Difusió-anglès

REFERENCES

The Queens of the Garden; flowers with crown

If you believed that crowns only belonged to kings and queens, you were totally wrong. In this article you will see that some flowers, as the daffodils, also wear crowns and they are worthy of them! In addition, not all flowers are wearing the same one, because there are many different ones, of all sizes and colours. And these singular structures are the reason that some of this plants are cultivated to plant in the gardens.

INTRODUCTION

First of all, we have to present the Amaryllidoideaes subfamily (Fam. Amaryllidaceae) because is here where we will find these royal flowers wearing crowns.

The members of this subfamily are perennial or biennial and herbaceous plants with bulbs or rarely with rhizome (underground stems that are usually elongated and with horizontal growth, similar to roots, and that usually contains reserve substances stored). These plants tend to present long narrow leaves that surround a portion of the stem, with parallel nerves, hairless, deciduous, also they are flat and with entire margins, smooth.

Narcís
A picture of a daffodils (Narcissus) as an example of an Amaryllidoideae member.

THEIR FLOWERS

Now that we get an idea of how these plants are, we have to know the flowers characteristics. That is, how are the flowers:

  • Hermaphrodite: both male and female reproductive organs are present.
  • Bracteate: each flower has a specialized leaf that is originated in its armpit.
  • They can grow in solitary or grouped.
  • No differentiation between petals and sepals. Therefore, in this case there isn’t difference between corolla and calyx, but it is a perianth formed by two whorls of petaloid tepals. In each whorl are 3 tepals and in total 6 per flower. These may be free or connected together. When the latter happens, crowns can be formed, as explained in the next section.

característiques florals
Flower parts: 1. petaloid tepal ; 2. crown; 3. floral bract (Miguel Ángel García‘s modified picture).

CROWNS’ DIVERSITY

The Amaryllidaceae group consists of 59 different genera. But not everyone is fit to wear crown. And now, you will know which of them are allowed and where they appear.

PARACOROLLAS

In Europe, the Mediterranean region and western Asia exists one of the most popular flowers with crown. It’s about the daffodil (Narcissus), one plant of the most used in gardening and surely the commonest queen of the gardens. This genus comprises a long crown or a funnel-shaped cup. Its origin is petaloid, that is, part of the tepals are fused to give rise to this structure. This type of crown is called paracorolla.

Narcissus
Narcissus (Author: Blondinrikard Fröberg).

STAMINAL CROWNS

On the other hand, within the same territory, there is the Pancratium gender. But this one presents a totally different crown; in this case the origin is staminal. That is, the bases of the stamens are enlarged and fused together to form the funnel.

Pancratium illyricum
Pancratium illyricum (Author: Tigerente).

Furthermore, the genera Calostemma and Proiphys occur between the centre and east of Asia and in Australia. These ones also carry staminal crowns (as in the previous case).

Calostemma_luteum
Calostemma luteum (Author: Melburnian).

Proiphys_amboinensis
Proiphys amboinensis (Author: Tauʻolunga).

OTHERS CROWNS

Moreover, within the same distribution as the two examples above, Lycoris appears. But, this one wears a smaller crown as it’s formed only by the joining of the tepals’ bases. This leads to tiny tube.

Lycoris_aurea
Lycoris aurea (Public Domain).

Finally, in America is where we find a big variety of genera and different crowns, differently formed (but, some as in the previous cases). The members of this territory are: Clinanthus, Pamianthe, Paramongaia, Hieronymiella, Placea, Hymenocallis, Ismene, Leptochiton, Eucrosia, Mathieua, Phaedranassa, Rauhia and Stenomesson

Pamianthe peruviana
Pamianthe peruviana (Author: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere).

Placea amoena
Placea amoena (Author: Dick Culbert).

Phaedranassa tunguraguae
Phaedranassa tunguraguae (Author: Michael Wolf).

Ismene amancaes
Ismene amancaes (Author: Mayta).

Hymenocallis caribaea
Hymenocallis caribaea (Author:Tatters ❀).

Eucrosia bicolor
Eucrosia bicolor (Author: Raffi Kojian – http://www.gardenology.org).

Clinanthus_variegatus
Clinanthus variegatus (Author: Melburnian)

Now that you know the different royal crowns, which one would be the queen of your garden?

Difusió-anglès

REFERENCES

  • Aguilella & F. Puche. 2004. Diccionari de botànica. Col·leció Educació. Material. Universitat de València: pp. 500.
  • Bolòs, J. Vigo, R. M. Masalles & J. M. Ninot. 2005. Flora manual dels Països catalans. 3ed. Pòrtic Natura, Barcelona: pp. 1310.
  • Guía de Consultas Diversidad Vegetal. FACENA (UNNE).Monocotiledoneas- Asparagales: Amaryllidaceae.
  • W. Byng. 2014. The Flowering Plants Handbook: A practical guide to famílies and genera of the world. Plant Gateway Ltd., Hertford, UK.
  • Apuntes de Fanerógamas, Grado de Biología Ambiental, UAB.
  • Guía de Consultas Diversidad Vegetal. FACENA (UNNE).Monocotiledoneas- Asparagales: Amaryllidaceae.

The plants and the climate change

Since a few years ago, we have heard about the climate change. Nowadays, it is already evident and also a concern. This not only affects to us, the humans, but to all kind of life. It has been talked enough about the global warming, but perhaps, what happens to the vegetation has not been much diffused. There are many things affected by climate change and vegetation is also one of them. In addition, the changes in this also affect us. But, what are these changes? how can the vegetation regulate them? And how we can help to mitigate them through plants?

CHANGES ON PLANTS

Biomes distribution

In general, due to climate change, an increase of precipitations in some parts of the world are expected, while in others a decrease is awaited. A global temperature increment is also denoted. This leads to an alteration in the location of the biomes, large units of vegetation (e.g.: savannas, tropical forests, tundras, etc.).

biomes
Biome triangle classified by latitude, altitude and humidity (Author: Peter Halasaz).

On the other hand, there is an upward trend in the distribution of species in the high latitudes and a detriment in the lower latitudes. This has serious associated problems; the change in the species distribution affects their conservation and genetic diversity. Consequently, the marginal populations in lower latitudes, which have been considered very important for the long-term conservation of genetic diversity and due their evolutionary potential, are threatened by this diversity loss. And conversely, the populations in high latitudes would be affected by the arrival of other competing species that could displace those already present, being as invasive.

Species distribution

Within the scenario of climate change, species have some ability to adjust their distribution and to adapt to this.

But, what type of species may be responding more quickly to this change? It appears that those with a faster life cycle and a higher dispersion capacity will be showing more adaptability and a better response. This could lead to a loss of some plants with slower rates.

Galactites tomentosa
The Purple milk Thistle (Galactites tomentosa) is a plant with a fast life cycle and high distribution capacity  (Author: Ghislain118).

One factor that facilitates adjustment in the distribution is the presence of wildlife corridors: these are parts of the geographical area that enable connectivity and movement of species from one population to another. They are important because they prevent that some species can remain isolated and because they can also allow the movement to new regions.

Another factor is the altitudinal gradient, which provides shelter for many species, facilitates the presence of wildlife corridors and permits redistribution of species along altitude. Therefore, in those territories where there is greater altitudinal range, the conservation is favored.

In short, the ability of species to cope with climate change depends on the plant characteristics and the territory attributes. And, conversely, the species vulnerability to climate change occurs when the speed to displace their distribution or adapt their lives is less than the climate change velocity.

At internal level

Climate change also affects the plant as an organism, as it causes changes in their metabolism and phenology (periodic or seasonal rhythms of the plant).

One of the effects that pushes the climate change is the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration increase in the atmosphere. This could produce a fertilization phenomenon of vegetation. Due the COincrease in the atmosphere it also increases the uptake by plants, thus increasing the photosynthesis and allowing greater assimilation. But, this is not all advantages, because for this an important water loss occurs due that the stomata (structures that allow gas exchange and transpiration) remain open long time to incorporate CO2. So, there are opposing effects and fertilization will depend on the plant itself, but the local climate will also determine this process. Many studies have shown that various plants react differently to the COincrease, since the compound affects various physiological processes and therefore there are not unique responses. Then, we find a factor that alters the plant metabolism and we cannot predict what will be the effects. Furthermore, this fertilizer effect is limited by the nutrients amount and without them production slows.

fotosíntesi
Photosynthesis process (Author: At09kg).

On the other hand, we must not forget that climate change also alters the weather and that this affects the vegetation growth and its phenology. This can have even an impact on a global scale; for example, could produce an imbalance in the production of cultivated plants for food.

PLANTS AS CLIMATE REGULATORS

Although one cannot speak of plants as regulators of global climate, it is clear that there is a relationship between climate and vegetation. However, this relationship is somewhat complicated because the vegetation has both effects of cooling and heating the weather.

The vegetation decreases the albedo; dark colours absorb more solar radiation and, in consequence, less sunlight is reflected outward. And besides, as the plants surface is usually rough, the absorption is increased. Consequently, if there is more vegetation, local temperature (transmitted heat) intensifies.

But, on the other hand, by increasing vegetation there is more evapotranspiration (set of water evaporation from a surface and transpiration through the plant). So, the heat is spent on passing the liquid water to gas, leading to a cooling effect. In addition, evapotranspiration also helps increase local rainfall.

Biophysical effects of landcover
Biophysical effects of different land uses and its consequences on the local climate. (From Jackson et al. 2008. Environmental Research Letters.3: article 0440066).

Therefore, it is an ambiguous process and in certain environments the cooling effect outweighs, while in others the heating effect has more relevance.

MITIGATION

Nowadays, there are several proposals to reduce climate change, but, in which way can the plants cooperate?

Plant communities can act as a sinks, carbon reservoirs, because through CO2 assimilation, they help to offset carbon emissions. Proper management of agricultural and forest ecosystems can stimulate capture and storage of carbon. On the other hand, if deforestation were reduced and protection of natural habitats and forests increased, emissions would be diminished and this would stimulate the sink effect. Still, there is a risk that these carbon sinks may become emission sources; for example, due to fire.

Finally, we must introduce biofuels: these, unlike fossil fuels (e.g. petroleum), are renewable resources, since they are cultivated plants for use as fuels. Although they fail to remove CO2 from the atmosphere or reduce carbon emissions, they get to avoid this increase in the atmosphere. For this reason, they may not become a strict mitigation measure, but they can keep neutral balance of uptake and release. The problem is that they can lead to side effects on social and environmental level, such as increased prices for other crops or stimulate deforestation to establish these biofuel crops, what should not happen.

800px-Canaviais_Sao_Paulo_01_2008_06
Sugarcane crop (Saccharum officinarum) in Brazil to produce biofuel (Author: Mariordo).

Difusió-anglès

REFERENCES