Will Roses Smell Sweeter in a Warming World?


Climate change may make flowers more fragrant. Photo by Jennifer Hattam.

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," Shakespeare famously wrote. And the flowers sweethearts buy for future Valentine's Day gifts may smell even more fragrant, some new research suggests. But that's not necessarily a good thing.According to the heads of a recent research review, "the world may already be becoming more fragrant, as plants have already begun emitting more smelly chemicals" known as biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), the BBC's Earth News service reports. Higher temperatures not only cause plants to produce more BVOCs, they also often lengthen their growing seasons, prolonging the period over which they generate the fragrant compounds.

Plants Already 10 Percent Smellier
"The increase is exponential. It may have increased already by 10 percent in the past 30 years and may increase 30 percent to 40 percent with the two to three degrees (Celsius) warming projected for the next decades," Professor Josep Penuelas, part of the Global Ecology Unit at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, told the BBC. Penuelas and Dr. Michael Staudt of the Centre for Functional Ecology and Evolution in Montpellier, France, conducted a major review of the effects of climate change on BVOCs, publishing their findings in the journal Trends in Plant Sciences.

While more fragrant flowers sounds like a pretty nice side effect of global warming -- especially compared to floods, drought, increased ocean dead zones, and diminished beer production -- it won't be so nice for the plants themselves.

Communicating Through Scent
BVOCs "play vital roles in helping plants grow and metabolise, communicate with one another and reproduce, and protect or defend themselves from herbivores such as browsing mammals or insect pests," the BBC reports. Some of the chemical "act as airborne signals between plants, warning them of an attack by herbivores":

Plants forced to produce more of such chemicals could therefore be in a constant state of high alert. Or it could be that a more fragrant atmosphere confuses pollinators such as bees, altering plant reproduction, or insect pests. "Temperature is a very powerful driver of emissions," says Prof. Penuelas. "The increased emissions will likely affect physiology and ecology, i.e. the functioning of life."

Via: "Climate change will make world more 'fragrant,'" BBC Earth News
More about flowers:
Say it with Organic Flowers
A Warming Climate Favors Cold Loving Flowers in the Sonoran Desert
Toyota Engineers New Flower Species to Absorb Emissions at Prius Factories
Flower Power Thwarts Burglars in Japan
Chelsea Flower Show: Working Harder to be Green
The Footprint of Flowers: Carbon and Social

Tags: Bees | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects