Plants Can Move Uphill and Downhill in Warming World


Photo: Flickr, CC
Complex Systems = Complex Interactions
So far, it has been widely accepted in scientific circles that on a warming planet, many species of plants would be moving up in altitude to stay in the kind of climate that they have evolved to best survive in. But a new study published yesterday is challenging this model and reminding us that the deeper we dig in complex systems, the more complicated it becomes. This doesn't mean that the original assumptions won't apply, just that there are other factors that can counter them in certain circumstances.
Photo: Flickr, CC

Between 1930 and 2000, instead of colonizing higher elevations to maintain a constant temperature, many California plant species instead moved downhill an average of 260 feet, said Jonathan Greenberg, an assistant project scientist at the UC Davis Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing.

"While the climate warmed significantly in this period, there was also more precipitation. These wetter conditions are allowing plants to exist in warmer locations than they were previously capable of," Greenberg said. (source)

So the constant in a warming world will be change, but it'll be hard to predict what that change will be. This illustrates it well: In some areas, species will migrate upwards, while in others, they'll go down, and in some other places, some species might go up while others might go down, potentially breaking some symbiotic bonds between species that have evolved together.

This findings of this study will be particularly useful in places where global warming is expected to increase precipitations (such as north of the 45th parallel).

Via Science Daily
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