Unlike the tricorder used to scan the environment in “Star Trek,” the nifty gadget is a sort of spectroradiometer that helps record how plant leaves reflect light differently—which actually tells How much genetically diverse a plant population is from another.
In a new study, a team of scientists used leaf clips to record reflected light from the leaves of plants from two species of an evergreen shrub on different Alaska mountains. The two plants were Dryas alascensis and Dryas azanensis. The plant populations the team analyzed on neighboring mountains were genetically distinct. This means that even though they are only a few miles apart, the populations are genetically distinct because they are not sharing pollen.
Understanding the genetic diversity of these plants, as well as the need to conserve them, fits into the broader goal of protecting the Earth’s natural biodiversity.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal New Phytologist.
“While trained biologists can typically walk in the field and identify species with their own eyes, it takes costly genetic analysis to reveal populations — groups of individuals of the same species within a gene pool — that are very important for conservation and evolutionary research, co-lead study author Dawson White, a postdoctoral researcher at Chicago’s Field Museum, said in a statement.
“In this new study, we have shown that you can use light instead of DNA to define plant populations at the same level. This new method is much faster and cheaper than genetic testing, which is dramatically Biodiversity mapping and monitoring can increase our efficiency.”
When botanists study plants to better understand their chemistry or genetics, this means collecting and storing plant samples, and taking careful measurements using a microscope, chemical testing, or gene sequencing. All of these can be expensive and time-consuming, says Lance Stasinski, study co-lead author and graduate student researcher at the University of Maine.
a valuable field tool
But the leaf clip “opens many doors in the study of plants” that can limit the time and money typically spent on these analyses, Stasinski said. And that’s a lot more immediate results that can be gathered in the field.
“There’s a lot of information that can be gathered from the light reflected off the leaves,” he said. “A short list of features include: leaf pigment, leaf structure, water content, nitrogen and carbon content, and more. You can then use that light to differentiate species, the same group.” different plants within the plant share the above features.”
“For example, we look at the concentration of pigments under photosynthesis, the concentration of defense compounds used to deter pests, how much water a leaf holds, the amount of carbon that a plant invests per leaf, many Among other things,” Josie said. “Dudoo” Meirels, study co-author and assistant professor at the University of Maine.
Light readings taken at leaf level can also be compared to measurements collected from aerial drones, aircraft or satellites.
“There are many space-based versions of this type of sensor in the future, so I’m excited to use these large foot-print datasets in combination with fine, ground-based or aerial spectrometer data,” said Peter R. Nelson, Forest Ecology said the director of the Schudick Institute in Acadia National Park and associate faculty at the University of Maine, Forest Resources School.
Genetic diversity for species health
Understanding the genetics of plant populations can help scientists preserve those that are threatened or endangered.
“Genetic diversity is actually the driver of evolution and a mechanism that ensures a species’ long-term survival in a changing world,” Stasinski said. “The more genetic populations we preserve, the more likely a species will have genes within the gene pool that will allow it to adapt to change. Genetic differences between two populations may indicate that each local climate changes.” How are you responding?”
If a plant population needs to adapt to rising temperatures, genes can adapt over generations and conform to characteristics that help the plant dissipate that heat.
“Now that we understand that each of these climbs is genetically unique, this means there are implications for conservation,” study co-author and curator Rick Rea, a Field Museum, said in a statement. “If we want to maintain genetic diversity over time, especially given the shrinking habitats of alpine ecosystems due to climate change, the implication[is]that we should sample from every mountain.
Stasinski explained that biodiversity is an essential part of maintaining clean water, fresh air and healthy soil. He said that species diversity in ecosystems helps in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
“Humans are not isolated from ecosystem health, so it is important that we study and maintain biodiversity, not least, to ensure the survival of our species, but to preserve the beauty and diversity of life Better we are lucky to mate with,” Stasinski said. “This concept of biodiversity conservation is particularly important in the face of climate change because biodiversity is already responding to a changing world.”
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