Atlantic trees will be affected the most by climate change on the Iberian Peninsula

Jun 24, 2008

The extreme heat wave that destroyed the territories of Western Europe in the summer of 2003 was an evident scientific sign of the change that climate is undergoing. Now, researchers from the University of the Basque Country (Universidad del País Vasco) have studied the responses to the midsummer heat of the Mediterranean and Atlantic trees and bushes of the Iberian Peninsula to conclude that the latter species will suffer most with the increase in temperatures.

Researchers from the Department of Plant Biology and Ecology from the University of the Basque Country have shown the response capacity of Mediterranean and Atlantic plants. ?We were able to notice that all species responded in a similar way, through the accumulation of photoprotective compounds (tocopherol or Vitamin E), reduction in clorophyll content and the activation of the so called xanthophyll cycle, points out José Ignacio Garcia-Plazaola, the first signatory of the study.

The study, which is published in the journal called Trees - Structure and Function, compares the effects of the summer of 2003 with the same period for 1998, 1999 and 2001. Generally, all the summers were dry, but in 2003 there was an average increase of 5o C, and this was considered to be the most stressful time for the trees, which turned yellow and the trees started to shed their leaves before the autumn.

Differences between the Mediterranean and Atlantic species

The researchers noticed a notable difference between the Mediterranean and Atlantic species. The Mediterranean species were much more plastic, having a much greater ability to stimulate the defence systems states García-Plazaola. With regard to the distribution of Atlantic species, scientists recorded the partial extinction of trees or bushes, such as the bearberry (Arctostaphylos), after the heat wave.

The study shows that the Atlantic species have less ability to respond to acute summer stress because of their responses to photosynthesis and the induction of photoprotective molecules. However, the majority of Mediterranean species, as they keep their green leaves throughout the year, are much more protected in the presence of environmental adversities and have developed mechanisms which allow them to acclimatise in an efficient way in the presence of heat waves and episodic cold waves as well.

According to the research, this phenomenon could be of special significance in the context of future global warming when the Atlantic species would be affected more. This result creates doubts about the future viability of certain Atlantic species that find their distribution limit on the Iberian Peninsula, as is the case of the beech tree (F. sylvatica), concludes García-Plazaola.

The unusually hot period that affected Europe in the summer of 2003 may have been the most extreme heat wave in the last 200 years. The plant species had to deal with an unequalled level of environmental stress (or adversity) in their entire existence, circumstances that they will have to face more and more frequently as a consequence of climate change.

Five years after the heat wave the Mediterranean species (Box and Holm Oak) remain the same but it has not been possible for the Atlantic species (Bearberry) to recover and it has disappeared. Photo: SINC/José Ignacio
Garcia-Plazaola.

Source: University of the Basque Country

Explore further: Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Secrets of the 'mermaid's purse' explored in new study

Feb 26, 2014

Researchers at SF State have clarified part of the family tree of sea creatures called skates, shedding light on the evolution of a novel reproductive strategy in two skate species. Their study was published ...

Atlantic bluefin tuna quota to rise slightly

Nov 19, 2012

Annual catches of Atlantic bluefin tuna will rise slightly from next year, green groups said Monday at a meeting of countries that hunt the much-prized but threatened species.

Living on islands makes animals tamer

Jan 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —Most of us have seen pictures and probably YouTube videos of "tame" animals on the Galapagos Islands, the biological paradise that was Charles Darwin's major source of inspiration as he obse ...

Recommended for you

Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

14 hours ago

New Zealand's pastoral landscapes are some of the loveliest in the world, but they also contain a hidden threat. Many of the country's pasture soils have become enriched in cadmium. Grasses take up this toxic heavy metal, ...

Oil drilling possible 'trigger' for deadly Italy quakes

18 hours ago

Italy's Emilia-Romagna region on Tuesday suspended new drilling as it published a report that warned that hydrocarbon exploitation may have acted as a "trigger" in twin earthquakes that killed 26 people in ...

Snow is largely a no-show for Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

18 hours ago

On March 1, 65 mushers and their teams of dogs left Anchorage, Alaska, on a quest to win the Iditarod—a race covering 1,000 miles of mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, tundra and coastline. According ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

19 hours ago

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Study shows less snowpack will harm ecosystem

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new study by CAS Professor of Biology Pamela Templer shows that milder winters can have a negative impact both on trees and on the water quality of nearby aquatic ecosystems, far into the warm growing season.

User comments : 0

More news stories

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.