Biologists have noticed that global warming has led to an increase in the size of plant flowers
(ORDO NEWS) — Due to global warming, plants are increasing the size of the flowers.
Biologists have long noticed that as the climate warms, many plants begin to bloom earlier in the spring.
This trend worries experts because it could disrupt the interactions between plants and the animals bees, birds, bats and others that pollinate them.
Much less attention has been paid to changes in other characteristics of flowers, such as their size, which can also affect the interaction of plants and pollinators, which are becoming less and less due to climate change.
James Erickson of the University of Michigan and his colleagues conducted an experiment.
They collected morning glory seeds from the edges of agricultural soybean and corn fields in Tennessee, North and South Carolina.
The collection was held twice: in 2003 and in 2012.
During this nine-year period, the region experienced an increase in average temperatures, especially at night, as well as an increase in extreme precipitation alternating with more extreme drought.
To look for changes in flower morphology, the researchers planted field-collected seeds from both years in the greenhouse at the University of Massachusetts Botanical Gardens.
When the flowers opened, their characteristics were measured using digital calipers. A total of 2836 flowers were measured from 456 plants.
It turned out that morning glory corollas became significantly wider over a nine-year interval – 4.5 centimeters in diameter in 2003 versus 4.8 centimeters in 2012, with this difference being more pronounced in the north of the country.
In addition, over time, flowers have become more “rewarding” for pollinators.
On average, Ipomoea flowers grown from seeds harvested in 2012 produced more pollen grains and more nectar than flowers from seeds harvested in 2003.
However, scientists are not sure about this conclusion, since the analysis of nectar and pollen was carried out on a smaller sample.
“Nevertheless, it seems likely that investment in attracting pollinators is increasing over time,” the authors conclude.
According to scientists, the growth in the size of flowers is associated with the need to attract the attention of insects in the face of global warming.
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