Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tourists, soothsayers & scientists try to predict peak Fall foliage color

07.10.2002


But new study sheds light on what makes leaves turn red



Groundhog behavior is supposedly a harbinger of spring.

Wooly Bear Caterpillars are a possible portent of the severity of winter.


But who knows when the Vermont forests will blaze with autumnal gold, orange and scarlet?

Not the weather forecasters, not the almanacs, not some octogenarian recluse Vermonter. Leave that to the scientists.

Here in Vermont where one out of four of the forests’ trees are maples, predicting peak leaf color is important business. Maples are those trees whose brilliant yellow, orange and red foliage most responsible for making the landscape look like a giant spilled his whole bowl of Trix cereal across the Green Mountains in October.

Tourists spent more than $710 million dollars in Vermont last fall, making 1.5 million trips to the state, according to information gathered by the University of Vermont’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, published last month.

So Vermont monitors the changes in its forests as carefully as a tourist on Vermont’s Route 100 studies a road map.

Now scientists at the University of Vermont and US Forest Service who track forest color feel they may have unraveled one of the mysteries concerning leaf color.

While color development is affected by a number of factors, "one common thread may be stress," according to Abby van den Berg research technician at UVM’s Proctor Maple Research Center, who’s spent the last four years studying foliage in Vermont forests. She and a team of University of Vermont and US Forest Service scientists used the data from her master’s thesis research to evaluate potential environmental and chemical triggers of fall color development.

"This data has been a source for deeper understanding and a new hypothesis about the connection between stress and red pigmentation in autumn leaves." says Paul Schaberg, UVM adjunct faculty, US Forest Service scientist and the study’s lead author. He says that their study, soon to be published in the journal Tree Physiology, concludes that "nutrient stress, particularly low nitrogen, can instigate early and more intense red color in maples." Others contributing to the research are: Program Chair of Forest Ecology John Shane, Professor Emeritus John Donnelly and UVM alumni Paula Murakami who is also with the US Forest Service.

"We’re developing new clues about what affects the timing and quality of fall coloration. Very little of this kind of work has ever been done before," van den Berg says.

Researchers tested the chemical composition of thousands of leaves from 16 maple trees, providing important information about various indicators of red fall-color development. They used state-of-the-art computer imaging technology to measure the percentage of color in each leaf throughout the seasonal cycle.

In addition to nitrogen, many other factors – potential climate, drought, pollution and others – could affect color, but it will take years of further study to uncover the many mysteries of autumnal color displays.

Scientists do know that cold temperatures and less daylight trigger the breakdown of green chlorophyll from leaves to reveal the yellow that exist hidden beneath all summer. "Then the leaves can also produce red. But why would a tree make red in a leaf that’s about to die?" asks Schaberg. "That’s one of the fundamental questions that we seek to answer."

An abstract of the soon-to-be published study suggests that a primary function of red pigments is to protect trees from photoxidative damage and thereby enhance nutrient recovery during leaf senescence. That means "the trees probably turn red because it’s a helpful coping response to stress," says Schaberg. "One theory is that red is like a sunscreen that allows the leaf to linger long enough for the tree to absorb more nutrients."

But even scientist Schaberg isn’t a soothsayer. In early September he predicted that due to the stress of last summer’s shortage of rainfall, New England would enjoy an early autumn. Alas, a warm September doused by excess rain from two tropical storms, led to an early October with forests still decked in green leaves.

"We’ve had a warm, wet autumn so far," says van den Berg "so trees are a bit late in losing their green, but it all could change practically overnight. Vibrant fall color is going to happen, I can guarantee it."

Cheryl Dorschner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://snr.uvm.edu/vtdc/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Decoding the genome's cryptic language
27.02.2017 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>