A Changing World
The study of nature is the study of change and our planet is in a constant state of transition, whether that be between ice ages, polar reversals, or the more familiar changing of the seasons.
As Charles Darwin famously said, those species able to adapt to such changes are the ones most likely to survive. If you read our article on Lichen and the history of plants on Earth then you’ll have some understanding of just how adaptable plants can be to radical change, even to the point of causing large-scale change through their own evolution.
Today we’re going to explore some of the major impacts that climate change is liable to have on our native flora and how plant species may adapt to survive.
The greenhouse effect roughly translates to the increased ratio of gases like carbon dioxide and nitrogen trapping more of the sun’s heat as it is reflected from the earth’s surface.
In turn, this means that global temperatures can be expected to rise dramatically unless a large-scale intervention takes place.
Plant physiologist Klaus Winter conducted an experiment in 2015 designed to emulate the likely weather conditions of our planet by the end of the 21st century and subjected various types of plants to these conditions to model their resilience.
Unsurprisingly, tropical species fared best as they thrived in the now much-warmer environment; the faster-growing species such as Balsa and Coralwood will stand the highest chance as their roots can establish quickly to create durability against environmental pressures.
Another major climate concern is the continued acidification of the oceans, caused in large part by pollution from industrial animal agriculture.
Although experiments have demonstrated that algae would likely have a field day in a highly-acidic environment, biodiversity would suffer massively.
Using oceanic vents as a prospective model, since the gases they spew out constantly often acidify the surrounding waters, showed that while algae were extremely prevalent around these vents, there were absolutely no predators and nothing resembling a nuanced food web.
As the ice caps melt and weather system fluctuations become more extreme, we will see our coastal areas radically transform with rising sea levels.
The increased levels of moisture and salt will initially wreak havoc on local ecosystems while the saturation of wetlands, aquifers, and rivers with seawater will negatively impact marine plant life further inland.
Although certain species of trees will be able to weather the milder effects of rising sea levels, due to their well-established root systems, as the situation deteriorates, any plant not able to spread its seeds over a large enough distance will likely be lost to the water.
In conclusion, while our planet and its other inhabitants have shown astonishing resilience to ongoing environmental change, we each have a responsibility to reduce our impact on the natural world.
Climate change is a challenge that we all will have to face together and there’s no better time than today to start contributing whether that be through reducing your own consumption of animal products or taking the bus to work rather than driving in tomorrow.
As always, thanks for reading, and drop by next week to learn about the part that plants have played in various mythologies over the centuries, starting with the Greek myths.