• Question: Any ideas for an experiment to prove the impact of climate change on plants?

    Asked by lounella to Freddie, Jena, Kirsten, Kon, Zarah on 16 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Jennifer Bates

      Jennifer Bates answered on 16 Nov 2016:

      I’ve been looking at past climate change on plants in my recent research. I’ve been working on a cave site in Libya with a very deep soil in it stretching back to the last Ice Age. The team I am part of has been asking the question, what happens to people, plants and animals during the last Ice Age, where do they go and how do they cope? The area we are looking at may have acted as a refuge, a shelter from the worst conditions. I have been trying to see if the plant biodiversity changes over the Ice Age and as the climate improved as the Ice Age ended by looking at microfossils, microscopically small bits of plant cells, to find out what species were present.

      You could also do something now to look at changes in atmospheric CO2 and drying conditions, like thinking about the % of stomata on leaves that open or closed. If the land is very dry, then the plant closes stomata to prevent water loss. If carbon dioxide concentrations start to fall inside the plant it opens it’s stomata so more CO2 can enter (even if it is very dry outside) and visa versa. You could then, if you had the right kit like a mass spectrometer, use this to think about isotopic ratios of different carbon isotopes, and think about water availability or CO2 availability perhaps.