News Stories

Plants Won't Save Us

But they CAN heal themselves! - Plants are pooped?they probably won't soak up any more carbon dioxide as the planet continues to warm. They've got to concentrate on healing themselves too: they make their own "aspirin!"

Some grassland that was being tested absorbed less CO2 than usual for two years following temperatures that were unusually hot?they way the world will be in the future. A lot of governments are hoping to curb global warming by planting trees and saving the rain forests, but this may not be effective.

In BBC News, Richard Black quotes researcher Jay Arnone, of the Desert Research Institute, as saying, "So in the warm year, the temperature goes up and causes more evapotranspiration from the plants. But plants have evolved to 'know' that when it gets dry they should curb their water loss, so they reduce the apertures of their stomata (pores) to conserve water, and that constrains the amount of CO2 they can take up (by photosynthesis)."

Plants in a forest respond to stress by producing significant amounts of a chemical form of aspirin. For years, scientists have known that plants in a laboratory may produce methyl salicylate, which is a chemical form of acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin. But researchers had never before detected methyl salicylate in an ecosystem or verified that plants emit the chemical in significant quantities into the atmosphere. This could give farmers an early warning signal about crops that are failing.

Researcher Thomas Karl says, "Unlike humans, who are advised to take aspirin as a fever suppressant, plants have the ability to produce their own mix of aspirin-like chemicals, triggering the formation of proteins that boost their biochemical defenses and reduce injury. Our measurements show that significant amounts of the chemical can be detected in the atmosphere as plants respond to drought, unseasonable temperatures, or other stresses."

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Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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