Even tropical orchids suffer from climate change

Even tropical orchids suffer from climate change

Increasing climate change is causing damage in many ways. Scientists studying the range of an orchid on different continents have also noticed this. They say that in Asia, warming will help orchids occupy new lands, but in the United States and Africa, warming will push orchids away from most habitats.

Orchids are mainly found in tropical regions, but even in Poland, we can find about 50 species of orchids. They bloom from mid-May to mid-July. An impressive orchid meadow can be seen in the Pieniny National Park.

“Few people know that they are looking at orchids. The Polish species do not look like the magnificent flowers we buy in pots. They are plants that are usually 20 to 40 cm tall and have many small flowers, usually red. Rely on fungi Forest orchids look like parasitic plants. They are not green at all because they do not produce chlorophyll.” said the botanist. Marta Kolanowska of the University of Łódź has devoted almost her entire research career to orchid research.

He pointed out that the smallest known orchid is only about 1.5 mm long. This species spends its entire life underground and was discovered by accident by Australian farmers. The largest orchid is a few meters long, just like vanilla. Because vanilla is also orchid. It is also a vine-that is, it has climbed a lot of meters on the tree.

Two trees in the world

A research group involving professors. Kolanowska examined how current and predicted climate change will affect the range of selected orchids. They showed that the plant responds differently on each continent. As orchids grow in tropical and subtropical America, Africa and Asia, an unusual species of orchids was investigated.

More than 27,000 orchid species have been identified worldwide. Many of them, especially tropical ones, only grow on one continent, or even only one place in the world. This is why they are so endangered-because changes in conditions in a small area can mean the destruction of entire species.

A few years ago, a group of researchers and professors participated. Kolanowska described the species of “devil orchid”, which is only known in one place in Colombia. It actually only grows on two adjacent trees. If anything happens to the trees, the orchids will disappear with them. There is nothing to do-this mountain plant cannot grow.

All orchids rely on the presence of mycorrhizal fungi, which causes their seeds to change and begin to germinate. Most tropical tropical orchids also continue to cooperate with fungi in the later stages of development. Mushrooms are found in their leaves and stems. Under artificial conditions, it is impossible to reconstruct the natural system that orchids need to develop.

The current research by scientists from the University of Lodz and the University of Gdansk involves the orchid Polystachya concreta-unique because it exists on multiple continents and different regions. It is also not a species related to a specific fungus. It can be pollinated by many different insects (this is important because some orchids are only pollinated by one specific species).

The study can assess how climate change will affect the survival and development prospects of selected orchids.

“Our research shows that the situation on each continent will be different. In Asia, climate warming will help orchids grow on new lands. In the United States and Africa, they will lose nearly 70% of their current habitat. For A rare species of orchid, it means extinction”-said the professor. Kolanovska.

It is now known that despite climate change, orchids will still have a chance to continue to exist. Researchers pointed out that funds for nature conservation are limited. It is unreasonable to protect the habitat of this orchid species because of climate change.

But change

“In our research, we confirmed that climate change has accelerated significantly in the past 50 years. Usually, in political disputes, people challenge the alarms of scientists and say that climate change is natural. Yes, but they have never been like before. Progress that fast. Kolanovska.

Scientists in her team established a research model for the last maximum ice age (about 20,000 years ago). As the glaciers receded, orchids lost their habitat. However, the scale of the loss will be unprecedented in the next half century.

“Twenty thousand. In the year orchid lost 60-80%. Their initial position. And now, in the next 50 years, it will lose 70%. Those still exist. The time scale and the loss scale are

unparalleled. If a species gradually loses its habitat, then it has time to adapt to the environment and migrate, changing its range. On the other hand, for plants with such a long life cycle, 50 years is a very short time. I don’t want Orchid to adapt to completely different conditions suddenly. “-Researcher said.

Her article in one of the publications of the “Nature” organization proves that human activities greatly accelerate negative changes. For tropical species, global warming seems to be an opportunity for expansion-but it turns out that these changes are actually impossible to happen in a short time. Therefore, it is mainly invasive plants and insects that benefit from warming, such as mosquitoes carrying malaria.

“The orchid populations we studied have different climate requirements, so their future looks different. We show on the map areas where orchid habitat and new orchids are still available-mainly in Asia. There you can find Power related to nature protection”-recommended by scientists.

Professor Kolanowska added that in the case of orchids, it is difficult to protect endangered species through banks and seed banks or breeding methods. The relationship between these plants and pollinators and fungi and other elements of the environment is too complicated, and these interactions are difficult to replicate in reproduction or cultivation. Even if you manage to grow rare orchids in the laboratory, it is difficult to “return them to nature”. Therefore, the researchers identified areas where orchid protection still makes sense. It is important-they added-that it is also much cheaper to protect species in their natural habitat.

The research results were published in the journal “Science Reports”.

PAP-Polish Science, Karolina Duszczyk