Effects of global warming on plant roots

global warming in plant roots

We talk about the effects of climate change and global warming both on the atmosphere and on flora and fauna. However, we hardly hear about the effects of global warming in plant roots. Although the roots are underground, they are also affected by global warming.

In this article we are going to tell you what the effects of global warming are on the roots of plants and what consequences it has.

Global warming in plant roots


While it may appear that above-ground plant growth is only minimally hindered by climate change, a recent paper in Science Advances reveals that significant alterations are occurring below the surface.

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University (USA) has discovered that carbon sequestration is increasingly difficult, which causes the release of more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Scientists discovered that two climatic factors, increased temperatures and elevated ozone levels, have a negative impact on the roots of soybean plants and their ability to interact with soil microorganisms. This is particularly worrying for soybean cultivation.

It is noteworthy that the planet's top soil layer, which extends up to about 30 cm, contains an abundance of carbon that It is almost double the amount present in the atmosphere as a whole.

The researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of the impact of elevated ozone levels and increased warming on specific underground creatures, known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). These organisms are responsible for facilitating chemical interactions that effectively sequester carbon in the soil by preventing the decomposition of organic matter. This process prevents the release of carbon from decomposing substances.

It is estimated that these fungi can be located in the roots of approximately 80% of all plants that exist on the planet's surface. As such, its importance cannot be underestimated. These organisms play a crucial role in the carbon cycle by extracting carbon from plants and returning essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, to the soil. This cycle is vital for the growth and development of all plant life.

Ability to preserve carbon

growing plant

According to co-author Professor Shuijin Hu, the ability to preserve carbon is crucial to maintaining soil productivity. This is due not only to the negative impact of greenhouse gases arising from carbon leakage, but also to the importance of carbon sequestration in general.

The researchers involved in the study divided up several plots of land, each with different variables. Some plots were planted with soybeans and subjected to an increase in air temperature of approximately three degrees Celsius (3ºC). Other plots were exposed to elevated levels of ozone, while another plot was subject to both high levels of warming and ozone. Finally, there was a soybean plantation control area that did not suffer alterations. What was the result of the experiment? Field tests showed that Rising ozone and temperature levels caused soybean roots to become thinner, while striving to conserve their resources and nutrients.

According to Hu, the impact of ozone and warming on crops such as soybeans is significant and stressful. However, this is not just limited to soybeans, as many other plant and tree species are also affected. Plant weakening is a direct consequence of ozone and warming, which have been shown to be harmful. Plants try to optimize their absorption of nutrients, which makes them its roots lengthen and thin. This is necessary since they must explore a greater volume of land to acquire the resources they need.

The modification of plant behavior is a phenomenon that has been observed in various cases.

Effects of global warming on plant roots

effects of global warming on plant roots

The direct result of this thinning process is the decrease in arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and accelerated growth of hyphae. The hypha is a network of elongated cylindrical cells covered in chitin that forms the fruiting bodies of these fungi. This acceleration of growth further stimulates decomposition and complicates carbon sequestration. It should be noted that, after the oceans, the soil is the largest natural carbon sink on our planet, even exceeding the carbon dioxide capture potential of forests and other flora. Hence, the reduction observed in the roots should be a cause for concern.

The series of events that occur underground may not be observable to the naked eye, but they can have a significant impact on the growth of plants, even if their shoots appear normal. The experts found that levels of a specific AMF species, Glomus, decreased in the area surrounding soybean plants that were exposed to high levels of warming and ozone. In contrast, a different species, Paraglomus, showed an increase in levels.

According to the researcher, Glomus protects organic carbon from decomposition by microbes, while Paraglomus is more effective in nutrient assimilation. The changes that occurred in these communities were unexpected. Additionally, the types of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that colonized soybean plants underwent transformations due to ozone change and higher temperatures.

The team of researchers has announced their intention to continue investigating various systems associated with carbon sequestration in the soil, in addition to other greenhouse gas emissions that occur below the Earth's surface, such as nitrous oxide or N2O. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has reported that the first 30 cm of soil on the planet contains almost twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. Any reduction in carbon sequestration within these areas could hinder our efforts to mitigate the most serious consequences of climate change.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the effects of global warming on plant roots.

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