Climate change may supercharge plant growth

February 25th, 2009 - 1:08 pm ICT by ANI  

According to a report in Discovery News, the research indicated that as deeply frozen winters give way to more cycles of freezing and thawing, certain plants will become more productive.

This is the first study to consider the link, though not all plants will benefit and those that do might suffer in other ways.

These findings illustrate that climate change will provide many surprising effects in ecosystems, said lead researcher Juergen Kreyling, of the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Freeze-thaw cycles are just one phenomenon that is not yet understood but is rapidly changing, Kreyling added.

Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), indicate that many places with traditionally cold winters will begin to flirt more frequently with the freezing point as the climate heats up.

For the research, the researchers planted several species of common grasses and herbs in 30 plots on the outskirts of Bayreuth, where average January temperatures usually hover around negative one degree Celsius (30 degrees F).

Each plot contained 100 individual plants and a buried heating wire that could artificially thaw the soil.

When temperatures dropped below freezing and stayed there for 48 hours, the team turned on the wires in half of the plots.

Two days later, they allowed the soil in these plots to freeze again. Over the course of the winter, the technique added five extra freeze-thaw cycles to the three that occurred naturally.

After harvesting, drying, and weighing the plants the following summer, measurements showed that heated plots contained 10 percent more biomass above ground than unheated plots did.

The researchers speculated that thawing and refreezing increases microbial activity and breaks up the soil, making plants more productive.

Winter is a time during which the plants were proposed to do nothing, Kreyling said. It is astonishing that they seem to be able to take up nutrients that become available during the freeze-thaw events, he added.

According to Hugh Henry, a plant ecologist at the University of Western Ontario, This indicates that changes in climate and more extreme climate events could potentially have fairly large effects on nutrient availability and the way plants grow. (ANI)

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