The research project, whose results will appear in the next issue of the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, also concludes that the life span of these organisms may be sensitive to rises in temperature. According to the authors’ predictions, the mortality of plants could increase by 40% if land temperatures rise by up to 4ºC (the rate of increase projected for the 21st century by climate change prediction models).
The reasons why organisms cease functioning and die is still one of the big questions for science. Some trees live for centuries while the smallest herbs last no more than a few months. However, there is no real reason why herbs should not, in theory, live as long as trees, given that all photosynthetic organisms – plants – can live indefinitely in the absence of disturbances.
The authors of the BBVA Foundation study examined the mortality and population growth rates of 700 phototrophs, ranging from the very smallest – the cells of the marine photosynthetic cyanobacteria Prochloroccocus (just half a micrometer across yet responsible for a considerable fraction of marine photosynthesis) – up to the largest species of trees, in search of general rules conducive to an improved understanding of plant life span regulation.
The results of the study identify phytoplankton as the shortest lived beings, with a span of around one day, while some trees reach ages of a thousand years. This was possible thanks to a methodology developed by Susana Agustí, using techniques that have permitted the first ever quantification of the cell death of phytoplankton.
The authors show that the same basic rules govern the longevity and birth rates of plants, such that the brief life span of the microscopic phytoplankton cells is offset by the vertiginous birth rates of populations, while centennial tree populations register no more than sporadic births.
Their findings provide the key to a universal regulation of the life span of photosynthetic organisms with reference to plant size and the temperatures they grow at, and suggest that the mortality rates of phototrophs evolve to match population growth rates. A further conclusion is that plant mortality is of necessity highly temperature-sensitive, such that climate change will tend to accelerate the phototroph death rates which are an essential part of the food chain. As stated, the authors estimate that plant mortality could increase by 40% in the event of an up to 4ºC increase in land temperatures (the rate foreseen for the 21st century by most climate change prediction models).
The balance between longevity and birth rates in photosynthetic organisms is what keeps their populations stable. In the event of a serious mismatch between plant mortality and birth rates, these populations would either be driven to extinction (if death rates far exceeded births) or would outgrow available resources of light, water and food with the same inevitable result (in the case of births far exceeding deaths).
Javier Fernández | alfa
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy