According to a new study conducted by researchers at the State University of Michigan, among the various consequences the current climate change will bring to the planet is that relating to herbivorous insects and parasites. These forms of life, in fact, will create different damage to agricultural crops. According to the study, the loss of cultivated fields due to insects and pests will increase by 10 to 25 percent for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.
According to the researchers, as temperatures increase, insects’ metabolism accelerates and therefore they have to eat more. In addition, the same increase in temperature exponentially increases the possible habitats for insects. There is, however, another factor that many previous studies have not taken into account, according to the researchers: how will plants react to ever greater heat and ever greater attack by insects and pests?
Usually when it gets warmer, plants lift their leaves further away from the soil that gives off the most heat. They also tend to “sweat” by opening the stomata, similar to the way we do by opening the skin pores.
However, researcher Nathan Havko, performing a laboratory experiment on tomato plants, found that with the warmer temperatures the caterpillars became much larger and swept the plants away almost completely: “When temperatures are higher, a wounded tomato plant produces even more jasmonates (plant hormones that regulate different processes in plants, Editor’s note), leading to a stronger defense response,” Havko reports. “Somehow, that doesn’t discourage caterpillars. In addition, we have found that jasmonates block the plant’s ability to cool, it can no longer lift the leaves or sweat.”
According to the researchers, maybe the plants close their pores to stop losing water from where they have been “injured” but in any case, the consequences seem to be lethal because photosynthesis is severely compromised. This means that activating responses to defend against predators means that plants are even more susceptible to heat and we still do not know how lethal this type of reaction can be global.
The study was published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
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