Dormant plants bloom as glaciers retreat
Thursday, May 30, 2013, 1:40 PM -
Long-dormant byrophites are re-awakening as galciers recede, researchers from the University of Alberta claim.
Study author Catherine La Farge says the widely-accepted belief that plants die after exposure to polar glaciers has been proven false.
La Farge and her team used radiocarbon dating to confirm that plants 400 to 600 years old remained in "pristine condition" following the retreat of the Teardrop Glacier on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
In some instances, they even showed signs of re-growth.
“These simple, efficient plants, which have been around for more than 400 million years, have evolved a unique biology for optimal resilience,” La Farge told the University of Alberta.
“Any bryophyte cell can reprogram itself to initiate the development of an entire new plant."
Researchers say the findings will shed new light on how vegetation adapts to an extreme environment.
The complete study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.