Flowers Are Changing Colors Due To Change In Climate

There is no doubt about the fact that humans are the main force behind global warming. With the change in climate all around the world, various species have fitted themselves by expanding their area and altering the breeding time.

The latest research shows that even flowers over the past 75 years have been altering ultraviolet (UV) pigments in petals to accustom in the ozone decline and rising temperature.

Matthew Koski a plant ecologist from Clemson University says –

“Flower’s UV pigments are invisible to the human eye, but they attract pollinators and serve as a kind of sunscreen for plants.”

More UV pigments in the petals of flowers were found by Koski and his teammates which were put into more UV radiation mostly flourishing at high elevations or close to the equator. Then he thought about the two factors that altered the UV pigments –

  • Ozone Decline
  • Change in temperature

A set of 1,238 herbarium specimens from 42 different flowers belonging to the year 1941 and 2017  were then examined to find out the pigmentation changes according to the various areas.

Source – sciencedirect

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). Darker petal areas possess UV-absorbing compounds whereas lighter areas are UV reflective and lack UV-absorbing compounds. (B) and (E) display a reduced area of UV-absorbing pigmentation on petals compared to (C) and (F). Arrows in (E) and (F) highlight differences in pigment distribution on the lower petal lobe of M. guttatus.

Flower pigment in all the locations expanded on an average of 2% every year as mentioned in current biology. Variation in changes was seen according to the flower structure.

Charles Davis, a plant biologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the research said– Though surprising, the finding “makes total sense.”

He also added “Pollen hidden within petals is naturally shielded from UV exposure, but this extra shielding can also act like a greenhouse, trapping heat. When these flowers are exposed to higher temperatures, their pollen is in danger of being cooked. Reducing UV pigments in the petals causes them to absorb less solar radiation, bringing down temperatures.

Koski says, Most pollinators prefer flowers with a “bulls-eye” pattern: UV-reflecting petal tips and UV-absorbing pigments near the center of the flower. Though scientists don’t fully understand the appeal of this pattern, they think it could help distinguish flowers from the UV-absorbing background of other plants.

As a result, flowers with less pigment may pop even more to pollinators, Koski says. But flowers that dial-up their pigment could lose that contrast, ultimately making them less attractive to passing flyers. 

Charles Davis says, “These pigment changes may help protect pollen, but pollinators might miss the flowers entirely.

The conclusion of the study has suggested that the change in the climate would vary pollination by its impact on the color of the flowers.

Source – sciencemag

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