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Peer Pressure: Plants’ Carbon Dioxide Reaction Strongly Affected by Other Plants

Aug 12, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

Plants do not exist in a vacuum, so it makes sense that their behavior are affected by its environment and other existing living things. In a new study, it is revealed that grassland species that have already evolved to withstand higher levels of carbon dioxide grew poorly when transferred to a new environment with a different biodiversity make up.

"Species do not evolve in isolation but within a community of interacting species," the researchers pointed out in the open study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The scientists observed Kentucky bluegrass which had been exposed to increased levels of carbon dioxide in varying levels of species diversity in Minnesota for 14 years, according to a report from

The bluegrass plants were transferred to Vancouver where their plots consist of either the same level of species diversity or a different one.

"In an effort to save certain species, there has been an interest in the movement of plants or animals to more climatically suitable habitats," University of British Columbia ecologist Elizabeth Kleynhans, lead author of the study, explained.

The research, entitled "Adaptation to elevated CO2 in different biodiversity context," discovered that the grasses reacted differently in the wake of their new surroundings.

Université de Sherbrooke biologist Mark Velland said that the results surprised even the researchers themselves.

He said, "If plants evolved to elevated carbon dioxide in one neighbourhood, then experienced elevated carbon dioxide in a different neighbourhood, the benefits disappeared."

Kleyhans and the rest of the team recommend further studies on inter-species effects as well as temperature.

"We might not be able to predict how plants are going to respond to climate change by looking at physical factors like carbon dioxide or temperature alone," she explained. "We also need to account for who else a species is living with because interactions between species influence evolution as well."

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