Oh noes! Increased carbon dioxide making more flowers in tropical forests

From FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY and the “but wait, all climate change must be bad!” department.

Climate change linked to more flowery forests, FSU study shows

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — New research from a Florida State University scientist has revealed a surprising relationship between surging atmospheric carbon dioxide and flower blooms in a remote tropical forest.

FSU researchers studying the rich tropical forests of Panama’s Barro Colorado Island found that climbing rates of carbon dioxide have set the stage for a multidecade increase in overall flower production.

The findings were outlined in a paper published in the journal Global Change Biology

“It’s really remarkable,” said Assistant Professor of Geography Stephanie Pau, who led the study. “Over the past several decades, we’ve seen temperatures warming and carbon dioxide increasing, and our study found that this tropical forest has responded to that increase by producing more flowers.”

Pau’s findings suggest that tropical forests, which have evolved over millennia to flourish in warm, equatorial conditions, may be more sensitive to subtle climatic changes than some ecologists predicted.

“Tropical forests have evolved in generally stable climates,” Pau said. “So while they may not be warming as much as some higher-latitude ecosystems, these tropical species appear to be much more sensitive than we might have expected.”

For this study, Pau evaluated a record of plant material collected and archived by researchers on the island over 28 years. She and her colleagues then examined how a host of climatic drivers — temperature, rainfall, light and carbon dioxide — appeared to affect the annual flowering activity and flowering duration of the different species present in the forest.

Assistant Professor of Geography Stephanie Pau studied a 28-year record of flower activity in Panama’s lush Barro Colorado Forest CREDIT Stephanie Pau

During her investigation, one factor stood out among the rest.

“What we were able to do in this paper is ask why flower activity has been increasing over the long term,” Pau said. “We found that atmospheric carbon dioxide clearly seems to have had the largest effect on the increase in flowers.”

Plants convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into energy in the form of sugars, which they can use to fuel any number of vital life processes. As more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, plants have an opportunity to produce a bounty of new energy.

The dramatic, long-term rise in flowering indicates that the forests of Barro Colorado Island are allocating those swelling stores of energy toward increased reproductive activity.

However, while some species have continued to exhibit elevating rates of flower activity in response to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, others, like certain canopy trees and lianas, have shown more stabilized flowering in recent years.

“Tropical species may generally be more sensitive than we expected, but not all species are responding the same,” Pau said. “For some species, responses to increasing carbon dioxide seems to have reached a ceiling. These are the kinds of trends that we can only identify with long-term records like the one used in our research.”

But as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations keep climbing — and as the global climate changes accordingly — temperamental tropical forests may continue to experience new and surprising ecological shifts.

“These tropical species have evolved in warm regions, so there may be an expectation that climate change won’t affect them,” Pau said. “But what we’ve shown is that they are in fact extremely sensitive to even small changes in their climate.”

###

The paper: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.14004/abstract

Long-term increases in tropical flowering activity across growth forms in response to rising CO2 and climate change

Abstract

Mounting evidence suggests that anthropogenic global change is altering plant species composition in tropical forests. Fewer studies, however, have focused on long-term trends in reproductive activity, in part because of the lack of data from tropical sites. Here, we analyze a 28-year record of tropical flower phenology in response to anthropogenic climate and atmospheric change. We show that a multidecadal increase in flower activity is most strongly associated with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations using yearly aggregated data. Compared to significant climatic factors, CO2 had on average an approximately three-, four-, or fivefold stronger effect than rainfall, solar radiation, and the Multivariate ENSO Index, respectively. Peaks in flower activity were associated with greater solar radiation and lower rainfall during El Niño years. The effect of atmospheric CO2 on flowering has diminished over the most recent decade for lianas and canopy trees, whereas flowering of midstory trees and shrub species continued to increase with rising CO2. Increases in flowering were accompanied by a lengthening of flowering duration for canopy and midstory trees. Understory treelets did not show increases in flowering but did show increases in duration. Given that atmospheric CO2 will likely continue to climb over the next century, a long-term increase in flowering activity may persist in some growth forms until checked by nutrient limitation or by climate change through rising temperatures, increasing drought frequency and/or increasing cloudiness and reduced insolation.

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48 thoughts on “Oh noes! Increased carbon dioxide making more flowers in tropical forests

  1. “a surprising relationship between surging atmospheric carbon dioxide and flower blooms”

    No surprise to greenhouse operators.

    • Yeah, seriously…obvious to pretty much anyone with any knowledge of botany or horticulture, but a major surprise to a “climate scientists”. Or even just any smart or well educated person who pays attention to matters scientifical.

      But, I think someone should do a study to see if scientists who identify as “climate scientists”, or who use their hard earned education to pursue scientific inquiry from the perspective of climate change and see everything through that lens, really are far stupider than the average grade-school last-in-his-class dolt?
      Plants do better with higher CO2? Gosh and golly…how shocking! And tropical plants love it hot?
      No! Get out! Really?

      *rolls the eyes*

      • Actually this study is neat. Plant growth is limited to the least available nutrient (among other things). This could have been minerals or some other nutrient. Seems it was CO2. We could guess but now know.

    • They are testing growing vegetables on Submarines. With co2 levels at 8000ppm it will be interesting to see the long term results. Apparently the subs are not hot enough for some vegetables and the cucumbers grow out of control.

      • I suppose they could use grow-lamps for photosynthesis.
        But why? Technology demonstration?
        Surely that could be done on something other than a submarine and at far lower cost, like a garage or warehouse.
        “Silent Running”?

      • Submarines don’t have CO2 at 8000 PPM. Good lord! that’s where the alarms go off and the Captain has the Atmosphere Control Tech grilled for not acting much sooner. I was a nuke electrician and ACT on the USS Cavalla [SSN 684]. We did have CO2 above 1000 PPM a few times, but only when the scrubbers needed attention. People get headaches and get quite grumpy long before 8000 PPM…

      • ” I was a nuke electrician and ACT on the USS Cavalla [SSN 684].”

        James – thanks so much for your service!

        S Yarbrough

  2. I would venture to guess that flowers where not the only part of the vegetation to grow.
    And this IS NOT NEW, nor new to botanists.
    CO2 causes plants to grow bigger and faster, but if they can scrape together the swag to send me to exotic areas to watch plants grow, sign me up.

  3. I’m surprised that they were allowed to publish good news about climate change. Normally, you would expect this to be censored for being “off-message”

    • No, the first line of the abstract : “Mounting evidence suggests that anthropogenic global change is altering plant species composition in tropical forests” clearly suggests that evil humans are changing plant life outside the norm. Of course this will cause more anxiety in the worried masses of the ignorant.

      • +10
        The first sentence killed my interest. Why the unfounded editorial?
        As their study indicated: Increases in CO2 is altering plant species composition in tropical forests. Where that gas came from WAS NOT STUDIED.

  4. They are not responding to climate change, they are responding to increased CO2. Cause and effect is seriously screwed up in research today because of CAGW ™ .

  5. I must be dense, but I can’t see the downside to this news. A flowering plant’s primary job is to bloom, so it can set seeds and make more of itself (“Be all that you can be”). I’ve noticed differences among my daylilies (I grow 15,000 or so of them), as well as larger leaves on trees and other signs of increased good health. Hi ho! for CO2! Sitting here, indoors for several weeks now, I’ve been hoping for a bit of warming to come my way: November and December were each about 5 degrees F cooler than the long-term Richmond average, and so far January is about 11 (eleven) degrees cooler. (I hasten to add that I live in Mechanicsville, about 12 miles outside of Richmond, so I’m not comparing to past Mechanicsville records, which I believe do not exist.) Anyway, it’s been too cold to work outside, while in most years at least some days are warm enough to permit such work, so I’d love a little of that warming that the alarmists are so “on” about.

    • The downside is to the presumption (unfounded) that (climate) change must be bad. Clearly many plants have the ability to increase their rate or reproduction (more flowers is a reproductive strategy) as conditions become more favorable. As far as the plants are concerned, if they can make use of a resource before or better than another species does, they win the Darwin battle.

  6. Well this is very interesting!….I went to look for the temp history of Panama….and got three totally different graphs….all from Berkeley Earth

  7. Have the actually documented this temperature increase in the area around the trees, or did they just assume it must be warming because that’s what they were told to believe?

  8. On another note: what is the species of those lovely little orchids in the sidebar photo?

    If this little plant is benefiting from whatever is going on now, where is the harm in that? Flowering plants feed many, many different genera and many thousands (millions) of species within those genera, everything from insects smaller than the head of a pin to nectar-feeding birds, so what and where is the harm in this, again? There are spider species (salticidae) that feed on nectar and plant material. The species Pelegrina galathea, a jumping spider and only one of many like that, lives on plant nectar. The more flowering plants, the better for them.

    How many times will REAL nature and REAL natural processes be ignored by these self-involved squawkers who style themselves scientists, when they seem to be the precise opposite?

    • Interesting though, of the 30000 or so.species of flowering orchids, I believe only one provides us with a human food product, which is the vanilla bean.

  9. I’m no genius when it comes to anything but I do have a good memory and have observed many things in my 55 years.
    As conditions change, plant life adjusts to those changes. Sometimes those changes mean more or less proliferation of flowers, fruit and nuts.

    Common sense tells you a tree should produce less during times of heat and drought. And this is usually the case.
    But I have witnessed my oak tree to do the opposite on occasion. Almost as if the tree was willing to risk itself in order to make sure there were more acorns for a better chance of a tree growing in the future.

    If a tree can make itself produce more during a time of want, why would anyone be surprised when plants produce more during times of plenty? (more CO2)

    • Some plants if they “think” they are dying (are severely stressed) will produce an outburst of flowers and seeds as sort of a blast hurrah.

  10. If it makes more blossoms for me and you, I’m all for more CO2….

    “Garden In The Rain” – Diane Krall

  11. This study sounds a bit sus to me. (by the way,I like the new ”Anthropogenic Global Change” thing in the abstract. Leave out ”warming and ”climate” completely!….Now it’s just ”change” which can mean anything and whatever happens there will always be something to require more research funding….we should keep an eye out to see if this new AGC is used now!)
    The differing flowering patterns over one decade could be caused by anything not just co2. What are the mechanisms which make the trees flower less and the lower story plants flower more with increasing co2? How do they know? Where is the ”evidence” or is it just more speculation sold as fact? Flower life duration in the canopy (if it’s even real) may override fewer flowers leading to better chance of pollination. This whole study smells underdone to me.

  12. “Abstract

    Mounting evidence suggests that anthropogenic global change is altering plant species composition in tropical forests.

    Fewer studies, however, have focused on long-term trends in reproductive activity, in part because of the lack of data from tropical sites.

    Here, we analyze a 28-year record of tropical flower phenology in response to anthropogenic climate and atmospheric change.

    We show that a multidecadal increase in flower activity is most strongly associated with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations using yearly aggregated data.

    Compared to significant climatic factors, CO2 had on average an approximately three-, four-, or fivefold stronger effect than rainfall, solar radiation, and the Multivariate ENSO Index, respectively.

    Peaks in flower activity were associated with greater solar radiation and lower rainfall during El Niño years. The effect of atmospheric CO2 on flowering has diminished over the most recent decade for lianas and canopy trees, whereas flowering of midstory trees and shrub species continued to increase with rising CO2. Increases in flowering were accompanied by a lengthening of flowering duration for canopy and midstory trees.

    Understory treelets did not show increases in flowering but did show increases in duration.

    Given that atmospheric CO2 will likely continue to climb over the next century, a long-term increase in flowering activity may persist in some growth forms until checked by nutrient limitation or by climate change through rising temperatures, increasing drought frequency and/or increasing cloudiness and reduced insolation.”

    This abstract is carefully worded to avoid spilling their absurdly bad research while allowing them to make specious claims.

    “Mounting evidence suggests that anthropogenic global change is altering plant species composition in tropical forests.

    Here, we analyze a 28-year record of tropical flower phenology in response to anthropogenic climate and atmospheric change.”

    Opening gambit introduces two separate claims clearly establishing researcher confirmation bias while initiating this research.

    “Here, we analyze a 28-year record of tropical flower phenology in response to anthropogenic climate and atmospheric change.

    We show that a multidecadal increase in flower activity is most strongly associated with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations using yearly aggregated data

    That analyze bit is specious.
    Following the provided link to wiley etc.; then selecting the supplemental information

    “”Table S2. Model comparisons of yearly flower presences (1987-2014) using all possible combinations of maximum temperature, rainfall, light, CO2, MEI, and interactions with growth form”

    Analyze = models

    “Table S3. Model comparisons of yearly flower presences (1987-2014) using all possible combinations of minimum temperature, rainfall, light, CO2, MEI, and interactions with growth form ”

    “Table S4. Model comparisons of yearly flower presences (1987-2009) using all possible combinations of maximum temperature, rainfall, light, CO2, MEI, and interactions with growth form ”

    “Table S5. Standardized model-averaged coefficients for models with ΔAIC<2 using the full record (1987-2014). For the full average model, parameter coefficients missing from the full model are set to zero before averaging (A). For the conditional average model, parameter coefficients missing from the full model do not contribute to average values"

    “Table S6. Standardized model-averaged coefficients of all possible models using the full record (1987-2014). For the full average model, parameter coefficients missing from the full model are set to zero before averaging (A). For the conditional average model, parameter coefficients missing from the full model do not contribute to average values ”

    “Figure S1. Autocorrelation plots of residuals for models without autoregressive-moving average parameters (ARMA; left) and with an autoregressive parameter of 3 and a moving average parameter of 2 (AR3,MA2; right), which were the best-fit parameters based on AIC (Supplementary Table 1). Dashed line indicates p < 0.01; "

    Indeed!? p < 0.01?
    Amazing!

    It's a shame that 'p' is calculated based on all model imputes. (yes, I mean imputes)

    “Figure S2. Added-variable plots showing relationships between flower production and each climate variable in best-fit models (ΔAIC<2). Model fit lines (red) show the effect of one variable while controlling for the effect of all other variables (e.g., the residuals from regressing rainfall against all other predictors are plotted against the residuals from regressing flower presences against all predictors except rainfall). "

    Don’t worry, it gets worse!

    “Figure S3. Log-scale responses of monthly flower presences to yearly rainfall anomalies using a cubic regression spline estimated in the GAM. Log-scale responses shown are centered at their mean and accounting for monthly seasonality in flowering and holding all other climatic factors (temperature, light, CO2, and MEI) at their mean ”

    Log scale responses?
    As an effort to maximize finding changes?

    “Figure S4. Log-scale responses of monthly flower presences to yearly maximum temperature anomalies using a cubic regression spline estimated in the GAM. Log-scale responses are centered at their mean, accounting for monthly seasonality in flowering and holding all other climatic factors (rainfall, light, CO2, and MEI) at their mean ”

    There’s that “yearly maximum temperature anomalies”; earlier stated as “using yearly aggregated data”.
    Aren’t Panama tropical plants amazing!? Growth and flowering across the year “analyzed” using yearly totals.

    “Figure S5. Log-scale responses of monthly flower presences to yearly light anomalies using a cubic regression spline estimated from the GAM. Log-scale responses are centered at their mean, accounting for monthly seasonality in flowering and holding all other climatic factors (rainfall, temperature, CO2, and MEI) at their mean. ”

    Seat of the pants estimates?

    “Figure S6. Log-scale response of monthly flower presences using a cubic regression spline, centered at their mean, to the Multivariate ENSO Index, accounting for monthly seasonality in flowering and holding all other climatic factors (rainfall, temperature, light and CO2) at their mean ”

    There’s that Multivariate ENSO index claim again…

    Only 28 years of estimates and models; just how many ENSO’s does that 28year period represent?

    How does that detailed MEI work with “yearly aggregated data”… Models can do anything! Just don’t ask how well.

    Not research!

  13. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    “PLANTS convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into energy in the form of sugars, which they can use to fuel any number of vital life processes. As more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, plants have an opportunity to produce a bounty of new energy.”

    SHOCK HORROR!! Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and warmth are what eco-systems require to flourish 😱

  14. The fact that increased CO2 levels result in increased reproductive mass has been known for at least twenty years. See for example
    http://www.academia.edu/28013175/Effects_of_low_and_elevated_CO2_partial_pressure_on_growth_and_reproduction_of_Arabidopsis_thaliana_from_different_elevations

    In this paper, unfortunately paywalled (I have a pdf copy of it if anyone is interested), laboratory tests were done on a flowering shrub (Arabidopsis thaliana, the botanists’ version of the fruit fly) at three different CO2 levels (approx. 200, 350 and 700 ppm) and the seed mass was measured in each case. As you might expect, the seed mass went up with the CO2 level. Since seeds are what we eat (wheat, maize, rice, etc), this implies that more CO2 = greater crop yields.

    The flower blossom authors don’t appear to have read this paper. This is probably because anything that points to more CO2 being a good thing is automatically on the forbidden list for academics nowadays.

      • Indiana Sue: You are correct that it is not a shrub, since it does not build woody tissue:

        However, The seeds potential crops statement is valid.

        wiki is a totally untrustworthy site.

        From USDA.gov
        Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh.
        Common name: mouseear cress

        Plants-NRCS Logos
        Kingdom Plantae – Plants
        Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
        Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
        Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
        Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
        Subclass Dilleniidae
        Order Capparales
        Family Brassicaceae ⁄ Cruciferae – Mustard family
        Genus Arabidopsis Heynh. – rockcress
        Species Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. – mouseear cress

        One should keep in mind that realms of Brassica crops have been bred from weedy ancestors. e.g. broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. etc.; including many oriental brassica varieties.

  15. Couldn’t help but think of the scene in “Coming to America” when the king walked out and the barber yells “Hey! Who gon’ clean up all deez flowa’s?”

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