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New markers of climate change

July 12, 2005

A new way to monitor the effects of climate change on rainforests is being investigated at Cambridge University. Researchers are using biomarkers in the shape of epiphytes ('air-plants' which grow on other plants) to find out how their photosynthesis and water evaporation have been affected by climate change over the last 50 years.

Using types of epiphytes known as bromeliads, Monica Mejia-Chang from Professor Howard Griffiths' lab in Cambridge has been measuring the levels of two stable isotopes, 13C and 18O in the organic material and leaf-water of the plants. These isotopes accumulate in the plant over time and are indicators of photosynthesis and water evaporation, respectively. Because the plants are subjected to conditions such as fog and high rainfall, the levels of these two isotopes can be matched against the changing environments to which the plants have been exposed. If successful, these plants could be used as bioindicators of climate change throughout the tropics.

Monica will be presenting her work at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting in Barcelona, on Wednesday 13th July [session P9.30].
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Society for Experimental Biology

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