Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Drought makes Borneo’s trees flower at the same time

22.05.2013
A drought period causes the trees in Borneo’s tropical forests to flower at the same time.

Evolutionary biologists from the University of Zurich have identified two genes that indicate when the plants are about to flower. By monitoring these genes specifically, scientists are better able to predict when mass flowering will occur. This means that plant seeds can be collected in a targeted manner and used for reforestation.


The study species, Shorea beccariana
Picture: UZH


Community-level mass flowering (general flowering) in the Lambir Hills National Park in Borneo 2009 (Malaysia).
Picture: UZH

Tropical plants flower at supra-annual irregular intervals. In addition, mass flowering is typical for the tropical forests in Borneo and elsewhere, where hundreds of different plant timber species from the Dipterocarpaceae family flower synchronously. This phenomenon is all the more puzzling because both temperature and day length are relatively constant all year round due to geographical proximity to the equator. Up to now it was supposed that several weeks of drought may trigger mass flowering in Borneo's forests. However, no empirical data and genetic analyses were available.

An international research team headed up by evolutionary biologists at the University of Zurich has now identified two genes responsible for the flowering of a tropical deciduous tree species Shorea beccariana. After drought periods, the two genes SbFT and SbSVP undergo dramatic transcriptional changes directly before flowering. The researchers can also confirm the flowering functions of these two genes using transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana plants.

85-meter canopy crane necessary for sample collection
The PhD student Masaki Kobayashi, his supervisor Professor Kentaro Shimizu and their Malaysian, Taiwanese and Japanese colleagues collected multiple buds from a single Shorea beccariana tree shortly before the start of flowering. “Given the fact that Shorea is a giant tree, having its crown at 40 meters of height, this sample collection was not easy at all”, says Shimizu. Only with the help of an 85m high canopy crane were they able to collect samples at six different time points over a two-year period. Next, they analyzed the sample material using a next-generation sequencing procedure, which was initially developed for human genome and disease research. In this way, Kobayashi and Shimizu identified 98 genes that are associated with the flowering of the plant ­– including the genes SbFT and SbSVP, which showed transcriptional changes after a drought period and directly before flowering. The scientists then combined their genetic results with the meteorological data of the region. Kobayashi concludes that «Flowering in Shorea beccariana is triggered by a four-week drought in combination with elevated sucrose levels.»
Toward prediction of mass flowering
Climate change will affect the frequency of drought periods and is thus predicted to affect also the frequency of mass flowering. Environmental protection and restoration of the forests have so far been severely hindered by the irregularity of the mass flowering intervals, which are thus difficult to predict. It was never possible to know when the seeds needed could be collected. The genes that have been identified now indicate when mass flowering is about to happen. «Successively monitoring of gene activity can help predict when mass flowering will take place», explains Kobayashi. This will make it possible to coordinate the collection of seeds and improve biodiversity and conservation programs substantially. Kentaro Shimizu and his colleagues will continue to explore these interactions in the newly created University Research Priority Program «Global Change and Biodiversity» at the University of Zurich.

The research was supported by the University Research Priority Programs in Global Changes and Biodiversity, in Systems Biology / Functional Genomics, and SystemsX.ch.

Literature:
Masaki J. Kobayashi, Yayoi Takeuchi, Tanaka Kenta, Tomonori Kume, Bibian Diway, Kentaro K. Shimizu. Mass flowering of tropical tree Shorea beccariana was preceded by expression changes in flowering and drought responsive genes. Molecular Ecology. May 8, 2013. doi: 10.1111/mec.12344
Contact:
Prof. Kentaro K. Shimizu
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
University of Zurich
Phone: +41 44 635 67 40 or 49 70
E-mail: kentaro.shimizu@ieu.uzh.ch

Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction

19.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Integrated lab-on-a-chip uses smartphone to quickly detect multiple pathogens

19.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Fossil coral reefs show sea level rose in bursts during last warming

19.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>