Saturday, June 13, 2009

Global warming may spread plant seeds faster and farther

Eric Mortenson in the Oregonian: A team headed by a Finnish researcher concludes that stronger winds caused by global warming may be dispersing seeds and pollen over longer distances. An increase in temperature of only a couple of degrees may increase the dispersal of plants in Northern forests and the spread of plant species into forest clearings after logging or forest fires.

University of Helsinki researcher Anna Kuparinen headed the international research into the impact of global warming on seed and pollen dispersal. The goal was to learn whether global warming would accelerate the dispersal of plant populations in forests. The research group utilized the meteorological data gathered over a decade at the Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station….

Seed and pollen dispersal profoundly affects the dynamics and genetic variation of plant populations, Kuparinen said in a news release. Spreading into more favorable areas will help them survive in the warming climate. Wind conditions play a key role, as turbulent vertical streams, in particular, spread seeds very efficiently, even over long distances.

…On the basis of these results, the researchers concluded that global warming accelerates the spread of plants, but it will not alone be sufficient to help plant populations to relocate to new vegetation zones. However, on a more local level, global warming may have a significant impact, as original and newly introduced species spread faster from one place to another and take over new patches of habitat….

A dandelion, with the seeds half blown away, shot by Sillyputtyenemies, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

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