BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: trees

The Moral Roots of Trees

By Richard Sniezko

By Richard Sniezko

Recently in Southern Utah it has come to the attention of many ecologists that the tree species, whitebark pines, is on the cusp of becoming an endangered species due to climate changes and droughts in the south. As a quick solution, some members of the scientific community have suggested “assisted migration” whereas humans would restore the whitebark pine population by dispersing its seeds from areas of the hot south to more adaptable, cooler weather up north.

To put this proposition to the test, graduate student, Sierra McLane, under Dr. Sally Aitken of the University of British Columbia, conducted a study and spread the seeds of whitebark pines throughout much cooler and consistent weather of the British Columbian mountain ranges. As a result, 20% of the seeds germinated and continue to grow here, allowing McLane to affirm that whitebark pines would successfully grow in the colder climate.

Despite her evidence, McLane, along with many other scientists’ “assisted migration” is bound more by an ethical dilemma than biological. Although it is clear that these whitebark pines are a crucial species to provide animals, like bears and birds, with food and shelter, some scientists are skeptical over how easily these animals will be able to adapt to the change in their location and others are morally conflicted over whether humans should interfere with nature thus changing the future. While assisted migration continues be deliberated by scientists as a possible solution to the threatened whitebark pine tree population, what is your attitude on the subject? Do you believe it is our moral responsibility to “take care” of the environment or should we not interfere with the natural selection of wildlife?

Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/science/under-theat-flight-may-be-best-response-for-trees.html?ref=science&_r=0

 

It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the trees?

I would simply NEVER get involved with business in the Mafia because I am not 100% sure I could complete my side of the bargain. ( I have seen what happens in the movie ‘The Godfather‘.) It is hard to keep promise because you never know what situation can occur, and if you do fall back on your word, how will that person handle it.

In nature, there are many contracts made between animals. In biology they are known as “mutually beneficial relationship “. Animals coexist each expecting the other to hold up their side of the arrangement. However what happens when one partner does do their share? Well in the case of the Fig tree and the Fig wasp, the wasp dies. (kinda like the mafia)

Fig trees and wasps can make up a great mutualstic relationship. The fig tree’s figs are a perfect home for the wasps to lay their eggs, and in return the wasps have to spread the tree’s pollen. A study by students at Cornell University showed that the fig tree will purposely drop the fig containing the larva, letting the die as they hit the ground, if the wasp does not spread it’s pollen. dang.

Who knew trees were so tough? Maybe whoever said “the bark is worse than it’s bite”.

The study came about when graduate student Charlotte Jandér  wanted “to know what forces maintain this 80 million-year-old mutualism between figs and their wasp pollinators…What prevents the wasps from cheating and reaping the benefits of the relationship without paying the costs?” Now Charlotte knows the answer…death of their children.

Besides the 80 million-year-old relationship between fig trees and wasps, there are more than seven hundred species of fig trees and their mutullastic fig wasps. The pairings success is so remarkable it is hard to look at the fig tree’s tactic as cold or harsh, they have been together longer than humans. Maybe people will start to use more “tough love” to create a longlasting benefitial relationship.

Learning to kill trees in order to save them

According to a recent New York Times article, there are researchers who are trying to figure out why trees seem to be dying for no reason. The problem they focus on is called the “sudden aspen decline” which is where aspens begin to die in large numbers after a period of drought. The scientists wanted to delve further into the plants to see what exactly was happening to the plants. The two theories were that either the tree would close its stomata to prevent transpiration but also cut off its carbon dioxide supply or that the xylem was collapsing from not having enough water. In the end they decided that in the case of the aspens the xylem had been damaged in the samples they collected from the dead trees but there could have also been other factors such as bugs damaging the trees when they were weakened by the drought. The exact details of the research were presented in a paper by William R. L. Anderegg. This research will help the scientists find ways to prevent these massive deaths of forests but this is not the only reason or the major reason for forest death so a lot of research is still needed to really help these ecosystems. The author of the Times article had also previously published a much longer article on forest deaths which goes into climate issues.

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