Western University researchers have found a significant change to plants dominating Northern Canadian wetlands in warmer temperatures.
If temperatures are four to eight degrees higher than the usual growing conditions, then there is a decrease in peat moss, and a corresponding increase in sedges, a grass-like plant that dominate wetlands rich in nutrients. The sedges are fertilized by carbon dioxide because of warmer temperatures.
“Our concern in the shift in the plant community will lead to, at best, we’d be stopping that accumulation of carbon through the growth of the mosses,” said Biology Professor Brian Branfireun, Canada Research Chair of Environment and Sustainability, “and at worst, we might actually start promoting processes that result in its loss back to the atmosphere. So this can create sort of a runaway effect where the increase in carbon dioxide and increased temperatures changes the plant community, which releases more carbon dioxide, which then further amplifies environmental change, right? So our concern is that this could potentially be an indicator of something to an even greater enhancement of climate change effects in the world.”
Branfireun and Professor Zoë Lindo presented the results in a study led by PhD Candidate Catherine Dieleman.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.