Don’t Forget Plankton In Climate Change Models

phytoplankton

A new study from the University of Exeter, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found that phytoplankton — microscopic water-borne plants — can rapidly evolve tolerance to elevated water temperatures. Globally, phytoplankton absorb as much carbon dioxide as tropical rainforests and so understanding the way they respond to a warming climate is crucial.
Phytoplankton subjected to warmed water initially failed to thrive but it took only 45 days, or 100 generations, for them to evolve tolerance to temperatures expected by the end of the century. With their newfound tolerance came an increase in the efficiency in which they were able to convert carbon dioxide into new biomass.
The results show that evolutionary responses in phytoplankton to warming can be rapid and might offset some of the predicted declines in the ability of aquatic ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide as the planet warms.

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Fungal Networks Play Role In Plant To Plant Communication

mycorrhizae_on_a_soybean_root-spl
Plants can communicate the onset of an attack from aphids by making use of an underground network of fungi, researchers have found.

Instances of plant communication through the air have been documented, in which chemicals emitted by a damaged plant can be picked up by a neighbour.

But below ground, most land plants are connected by fungi called mycorrhizae.

The new study, published in Ecology Letters, demonstrates clearly that these fungi also aid in communication.

It joins an established body of literature, recently reviewed in the Journal of Chemical Ecology and in Trends in Plant Science, which has suggested that the mycorrhizae can act as a kind of information network among plants.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen, the James Hutton Institute and Rothamsted Research, all in the UK, devised a clever experiment to isolate the effects of these thread-like networks.

The team concerned themselves with aphids, tiny insects that feed on and damage plants.

Many plants have a chemical armoury that they deploy when aphids attack, with chemicals that both repel the aphids and attract parasitic wasps that are aphids’ natural predators.

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