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Climate Influences the Male-Female Balance in Longleaf Pines

 

Longleaf_male_strobili_UGA_Bugwood.jpg“Abundant evidence demonstrates that climate change affects plants in multiple ways, but some new studies have indicated that these effects could emerge in surprising ways,” says Eastern Threat Center research ecologist Qinfeng Guo. He and partners studying longleaf pines have discovered that temperature changes may be related to a shift in the density of pollen, with implications for cone crops, seed production, and future long-term sustainability. Their study, which was recently published in Plant Ecology & Diversity, centered on 56 years of data collected from longleaf pines on the Escambia Experimental Forest in Alabama. When the researchers paired each year of pollen, conelet, and cone counts with weather data from each previous year, they found that warmer weather resulted in greater pollen production. With relatively fewer female conelets to be fertilized under these conditions, cone and seed production became more variable. In cooler years, pollen production showed a relative decrease, limiting fertilization potential. As researchers learn more about these shifts in the male-female balance, forest managers may need to prepare to step in to ensure that populations can be sustained through a changing climate. Read more in CompassLive...

Pictured: Male catkins on longleaf pine before (right) and after (left) releasing pollen. Photo by University of Georgia, Bugwood.org.

 

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