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Flowers Are Changing Colours Due to Rise in Temperature and Climate Change, Shows Study

Image for representation. Credit: Canva

Image for representation. Credit: Canva

Since pigmentation in plants also affects floral thermoregulation, the study suggests climate warming may additionally impact pigmentation also.

The effects of changing climate and rising temperatures are not just responsible for extreme weathers and rising sea levels, they can also bring subtle changes like flowers changing their colours.

A recent research suggests that due to the declining ozone and increasing global warming, flowers are changing their colours. This happens when plants increase their UV absorbing pigmentation, says the research. Published in the Current Biology journal, the study revealed that in flowering plants, UV exposure favors larger areas of UV-absorbing pigmentation on petals, which protects pollen from UV-damage.

Since pigmentation in plants also affects floral thermoregulation, the study suggests climate warming may additionally impact pigmentation also. For the study, scientists used 1,238 herbarium specimens collected from 1941 to 2017 to test whether change in UV floral pigmentation was associated with altered ozone and temperature in 42 species across three continents.

The petals were photographed using UV-sensitive cameras to observe changes in UV pigment, and scientists also looked at preserved specimens of flowers. When compared, the results showed that across locations, UV-pigmentation in flowers increased at a rate of 2% per year from 1941 to 2017. The researchers also mapped the changes of individual species to data on their local temperatures and ozone levels. The results varied depending on the flower's structure and the region it came from. For flowers with anthers enclosed within petals, pigmentation declined with increases in temperature.

The study says there is a rapid phenotypic response of floral pigmentation to human-made climate change which has shown that global warming may affect pollination through its impact on floral color, with repercussions for plants’ reproductive fitness.

Matthew Koski, a plant ecologist at Clemson University, who was not a part of this research explains, UV pigments are invisible to the human eye, but they attract pollinators and act as a sunscreen for plants. UV radiation can be harmful for a flower’s pollen. Hence, the more UV-absorbing pigment the petals contain, the less harmful radiation reaches sensitive cells.


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