Soils may dictate the array of fall colors as much as the trees rooted in them, according to a forest survey out of North Carolina.
By taking careful stock and laboratory analyses of the autumn foliage of sweetgum and red maple trees along transects from floodplains to ridge-tops in a nature preserve in Charlotte, N.C., former University of North Carolina at Charlotte graduate student Emily M. Habinck found that in places where the soil was relatively low in nitrogen and other essential elements, trees produced more red pigments known as anthocyanins.
Habinck's discovery supports a 2003 hypothesis put forward to explain why trees bother to make red pigments, by plant physiologist William Hoch of Montana State University, Bozeman. Hoch found that if he genetically blocked anthocyanin production in red-leafed plants, their leaves were unusually vulnerable to fall sunlight, and so sent less nutrients to the plant roots for winter storage.
For trees living in nutrient-poor soils, then, it makes sense to produce more anthocyanins, which protect the leaves longer, so as much nutrient as possible can be recovered from leaves before winter sets in. It is, after all, the process of recovering of nutrients from leaves which turns leaves from green to yellow, orange and sometimes anthocyanin-red.
The trees Habinck studied appear to be acting in accordance with Hoch's hypothesis. "It makes sense that anthocyanin production would have a function, because it requires energy expenditure," said Habinck. Put in economic terms, anthocyanins are an investment made by stressed trees in situations where they stand to gain from the extra recovery of nutrients from leaves. It's not about the showy color, but about survival.
"The rainbow of color we see in the fall is not just for our personal human enjoyment -- rather, it is the trees going on about their lives and trying to survive," said Habinck's advisor, Martha C. Eppes, a soil scientist and assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Eppes will present the research at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Monday, 29 October, in Denver, CO.
The reason the soil-leaf color connection wasn't made long ago is partly because Hoch's hypothesis was needed to put it into perspective. It also might be that many plant researchers were missing the forest for the trees.
"I think that most of the work has been done by biologists looking at production of anthocyanins in trees themselves," said Eppes. They hadn't stepped back and looked at patterns of tree color.
Eppes wants to follow up Habinck's study with a wider analysis of satellite data showing tree color which can be compared to geological maps of the types of soils over large portions of land.
**WHEN & WHERE**
Correlation of Soil Development and Landscape Position with Fall Leaf Colors
Monday, October 29, 8:00 a.m. – Noon
Colorado Convention Center: Exhibit Hall E/F
View abstract: http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2007AM/finalprogram/abstract_127703.htm
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Drug Prevents Key Age-related Brain Change In Rats
- Top Secret: On Confidentiality On Scientific Issues, Across The Ring And Across The Bedroom
- A New Alternative To Sodium: Fish Sauce
- Would New Planet X Clear Its Orbit? - And Any Better Name Than "Planet Nine"?
- Smoking Bans Reduce Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease In Non-Smokers
- Brain Formation Pattern Shows Why Early Trauma May Leave No Clues
- Stop Using BMI To Determine Health
- "So there is no why like Bob Fletcher or as some people say you can already see it on Russian news..."
- "Hi Joe, yes the thing is - all that is fine, it's logical from your point of view. And whatever..."
- " Like I asked David Brin: Who are the ones who are actually insane? Certainly it is NOT the skeptics..."
- "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVyV4L072jY So then what is going on in this video? Also what is..."
- "Just curious, When was the last time you (the author) generated a mathematical model? On what?..."
- Florida Declares Zika Virus State of Emergency
- Indonesia’s Many Human Physical Deformities: A Closer Look
- Spinal ‘Column’: Love for Hunchback Dog, Breakthrough for 8-Yr-Old Girl
- BMI is Bologna
- Energy Drinks: The Dose Makes the Poison
- California’s Prop 65: Bad For Public Acceptance Of Science, About To Get Worse
- Cambridge researcher develops smartphone app to map Swiss-German dialects
- Studies link healthy workforces to positive stock market performance
- Pioneering discovery leads to potential preventive treatment for sudden cardiac death
- Online shopping might not be as green as we thought
- Gene family turns cancer cells into aggressive stem cells that keep growing