Washington, June 17 (ANI): Researchers have found that flowering plants contribute much more than non flowering plants towards keeping the atmosphere cooler and wetter.
In the Amazon basin, replacing flowering plants with non-flowering varieties would result in an 80 percent decrease in the area covered by ever-wet rainforest.
"The vein density of leaves within the flowering plants is much, much higher than all other plants," said the study's lead author, C. Kevin Boyce, Associate Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago.
"That actually matters physiologically for both taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis and also the loss of water, which is transpiration. The two necessarily go together. You can't take in CO2 without losing water."
This means that flowering plants are more efficient in transpiring water from the soil back into the sky, where it can return to Earth as rain. Flowering plants, called angiosperms, evolved about 120 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, and took another 20 million years to become prevalent.
"They're basically everywhere and everything, unless you're talking about high altitudes and very high latitudes," Boyce said.
Boyce and Lee are, nevertheless, working toward simulating the climatic impact of flowering plant evolution in the prehistoric world. The simulations showed the importance of flowering plants to water recycling. Rain falls, plants drink it up and pass most of it out of their leaves and back into the sky. Flowering plants, it seems, foster and perpetuate their own diversity.
In the simulations, replacing flowering plants with non-flowering plants in eastern North America reduced rainfall by up to 40 percent. The same replacement in the Amazon basin delayed onset of the monsoon from Oct. 26 to Jan. 10.
The study was published online June 16, 2010, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)