Response of oriental xerophytes to the occidental industrial revolution

Sara Manafzadeh, Yannick Städler, Hamid Moazzeni, David Masson, Jürg Schönenberger, Elena Conti

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have contributed substantially to climate change, by adding CO2 to the atmosphere, especially since the mid-20th century (the Great Acceleration). Climatic change does not have the same impact on different regions of the Earth, neither in the recorded past, nor in models of the future. Therefore, to anticipate on these changes, we need to understand and be able to predict the possible responses of the different regional vegetations of the world to these changes, and most significantly to increased drought conditions. The aim of this study is to understand the response of the xerophytes of the immense oriental Irano-Turanian bioregion to post-industrial global warming and to compare it with the response of the xerophytes of the neighbouring occidental Mediterranean bioregion. We measured stomata index and stomata density from 83 herbarium sheets (coll. 1821-2014) from species of the non-succulent xerophyte, Haplophyllum. We tested for differences before and after the Great Acceleration in both bioregions. SI decreased in the occidental species (significant only for abaxial leaf side), whereas SI significantly increased in the oriental species (both sides). We suggest that changes in both occidental and oriental species are linked to atmospheric CO2 due to the different constraints that act on their growth. In light-limited occidental species, atmospheric CO2 caused the stomata index decrease, whereas in the predominantly water-limited oriental species, increased drought stress and temperature (climatic change) caused stomata index increase. In conclusion, we propose that whereas atmospheric CO2 directly caused a decrease in stomata index in occidental xerophytes, it indirectly caused an increase in stomata index in oriental xerophytes via climate change (increase in aridity, drought stress, and temperature). This study highlights the considerable potential of research based on historical herbarium collections to answer ecological questions, especially regarding climatic change.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
External organisation(s)
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (FUM), Universität Zürich (UZH)
Publication date
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106042 Systematic botany, 106008 Botany, 106012 Evolutionary research
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