With temperatures rising each year, the future of our environment is in danger. As the scientific issue of climate change has turned political and economic, limited action has occurred in a time where an immediate change is needed to reverse the effects of global warming. However, researchers from the Natural History Museum in Denmark and the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences are looking toward aloe vera as plants that may help fight this battle.
Such household succulents are renowned for their ability to go long durations of time without water; in other words, they survive periods of drought. Thus, scientists recognize aloe vera as a teacher to ways plants may survive in a warming world. In aloe vera’s structure, hydrenchyma tissues in the aloe’s leaves, in conjunction with the plant’s overwhelming composition from carbohydrates, help aloe manage water in their system. Carbohydrates – comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen – are organic compounds found in sugars and starches. In their complex (or polymer) form, polysaccharides may perform a structural function. Specifically, cellulose is a carbohydrate that comprises a plant’s cell walls.
The study relays how aloe vera plants adjust their cell walls when there is a lack of water (a drought) to help them survive. In extremely hot temperatures, the plants respond by folding their cell walls closer together. Here, the plant maximizes its resources for survival. Thus, the aloe may shrivel, ceasing its growth, and reallocate its energy/resources to root growth (from water in the soil). Conversely, when there is plentiful water and they become rehydrated, normal activity resumes as the aloe vera reverts to its original state.
Within the context of employing the aloe vera’s techniques in a real-world situation, the scientists’ experiment further aims to find a link between the composition of carbohydrates in these succulents and the folding of their cell walls. If a connection is discovered, they hope to utilize similar strategies in crops so they can survive periods where their environment may be hot and dry. I am hopeful that other plants can mimic the aloe’s techniques because crops and succulents share many similar qualities to aloe in their composition. Nonetheless, I also recognize this may take time and generations of crops to find a concrete solution. Though the implications of this study are not yet comprehensible, they hint that we may soon be a step closer to combatting climate change.
What do you think? Are the teachings of aloe vera a hopeless grasp at a solution to climate change or the pathway to our future?