Plants are much more adaptable to temperature changes and global warming than previously thought, according to a 30-year long study by Norwegian scientists published Wednesday.
The study showed that a tree called the Norwegian spruce can adjust its growth rate to cope with different environmental conditions and temperature extremes, rebutting the claim that plants won’t be able to adapt to changing climate conditions.
“There is a kind of flexibility in the genetic material. Environmental conditions during seed development create a memory of those temperature conditions. Much like a ‘molecular thermostat’ that can shift the growth cycle of the plant”, Carl Gunnar Fossdal, a senior research scientist with the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, said in a press statment. “This phenomenon has great importance for the discussion around climate change. It shows that the memory mechanism at least in these plants, and maybe in all, adapt to changes in the environment.”
The Norwegian spruces and other trees may even pass these adaptions to their offspring, according to the research. The scientists speculate that animals also have similar ways to adapt to changing global temperatures.
The new research is the latest example of scientists finding that organisms are far more adaptable to environmental changes than previously believed. Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes that the evidence linking global warming to extinctions is sparse.
Despite this growing consensus, environmental groups still believe that plants and animals aren’t capable of adapting to changing temperatures, leading to mass extinctions caused by global warming.
“One-fourth of the Earth’s species could be headed for extinction by 2050 due to climate change,” The Nature Conservancy claims. “Rising temperatures are changing weather and vegetation patterns across the globe, forcing animal species to migrate to new, cooler areas in order to survive.”
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