Flowers Change Colors to Respond to Global Warming

Different species develop different ways to cope with climate change.
Deniz Yildiran

Global warming no doubt exists, and we cannot deny the human influence on that. While some of us struggle to avoid contribution to that, sadly we also try to adapt to the inevitable changes. And it is not just us humans, it turns out. 

New research has shown that some flowers are expanding their pigmentation on their petals to protect their pollen from increasing UV lights and declining ozone. And they have been doing it since 1941, study reveals. 

The research was published in Current Biology on September 17, 2020. 

Collection of 1,238 herbarium specimens from 42 different flower species - between 1941 and 2017 - have been studied to test whether the pigmentation varied depending on their locations: Australia, Eurasia, and North America. 

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Images of the same species from different years have been captured by UV-sensitive cameras to see if any change was visible. And differences were obvious throughout the years. 

Flowers Change Colors to Respond to Global Warming
Exemplary images for a species with anthers exposed to ambient conditions, Potentilla crantzii (A–C) and a species with anthers protected by floral tissue Mimulus guttatus (D–F), Source: Current Biology

To a global extent, pigmentation increased in all the flowers by 2%. However, it was a little different for the flowers with exposed pollen and the ones enclosed within petals. 

"Species with exposed anthers experiencing larger declines in ozone displayed more dramatic pigmentation increases," study revealed. "For taxa with anthers enclosed within petals, pigmentation declined with increases in temperature," they explained.

In general, it was shown that flowers are increasing their pigmentation to shield their pollens. However, as the pigmentation increases, they absorb more UV lights which result in over-heating of the pollen and therefore decreases the chances of further viability, reports Science Mag.

"The study ends suggesting that global change may alter pollination through its impact on floral color, with repercussions for plant reproductive fitness," the study says. 

The recent research is the first on revealing such data covering more than one species. Certain studies previously observed in a single species of birds that they experience melanism as the temperature increases, the study compares. 

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